Programming Profile: The Score bets on b-ball growth

Score Media is heading into the New Year with plans for its first fully multiplatform sponsorship deal, following its pick-up of NCAA basketball championship exclusive rights. It's been a good year for the net in terms of program acquisitions, and the future looks bright too.

Toronto’s The Score is edging in to the multiplatform sponsorship arena with its first major rights deal covering all the bases – TV, online, mobile, broadband, sports ticker and more – for Pontiac’s support of NCAA March Madness 2007. Score Media, based in Hamilton, Ontario, inked a four-year deal for NCAA Division 1 (including both men’s and women’s games) this month, so the multiplatform sponsorship deal is surely only the first of good things to come.

The Score’s SVP and general manager David Errington tells MiC the net is ‘selling a multiplatform approach. Pontiac wants exposure on all of the platforms that we’re offering. And, so far, we’ve got four other supporting sponsors.’ The rights deal and sponsorship is giving the net its first run at a completely integrated strategy ranging from 30-second on-air spots, online billboarding and pre-roll ads on broadband highlights, to a Pontiac tag on media alerts and VOD and fantasy pool strategy (which are still in development).

The NCAA March Madness 2007 coverage tops off The Score’s 20-game regular season coverage and finals. Score Media’s deal with the NCAA also includes Canadian rights for 15 other championships, including men’s lacrosse, Division 1 wrestling, and women’s gymnastics and swimming. Earlier this month, Score Media also announced an exclusive broadcast rights deal for English Premier League soccer in Canada. That three-year deal will cost the net $3.15 million in total fees, with broadcasts kicking off in fall 2007. A multiplatform strategy for coverage and sponsorship of the soccer seasons has yet to be developed.

In June 2006, The Score signed a two-year deal with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment covering Toronto Raptors and Thursday night NBA telecasts (including a minimum of 21 playoff games airing exclusively on The Score). Starting with the 2006/2007 season, The Score Television Network will have exclusive broadcast rights to 30 Toronto Raptors games that will air nationally on The Score and The Score HD.

Not a bad year for a net that began under a different name as a news ticker of sports scores and headline content. The net is also backed by its Hardcore Sports Radio brand on Sirius Satellite Radio. The brand’s online presence currently gives prominence to a shoot-out fantasy pool promotion, and Burger King is also trying to crown the King of Football through a fantasy challenge with the net.

Are the male audiences following with The Score’s growth trend? Apparently. The Score’s total Fall 2006 audience was up 8% over Fall 2005, and the teen audience was up a whopping 77% for the same periods. Nielsen numbers peg The Score’s all time top telecast at Sept. 25, 2006 in the 10 pm time slot – when the total 2+ audience for WWE RAW hit 412,000. The wrestling brand has consistently performed well for The Score, filling several spots on the net’s list of top telecasts. Previous NCAA basketball games haven’t drawn in such numbers yet (the Nov. 25 game reeled in 38,000 total 2+), but the net’s betting that’s gonna change.

The NCAA college basketball franchise south of the border has already spawned a viral marketing effort for March Madness by Coca-Cola. The microsite,, invites superfans to submit to videos, photos and stories showcasing their dedication to their schools. Those who demonstrate the most loyalty and craziness in devotion to their team can win a spot in the Coca Cola ‘Human Bracket’ (click here to see last year’s human bracket) and a trip to one of the 2007 games.