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Big Ten Scores Sponsors

Chicago — The tough economy has cooled many companies' budgets, but Big Ten Network has managed to heat up some mid-winter ad deals for its basketball coverage.

Now in its sophomore season, Big Ten Network has inked a trio of media pacts, with sponsored elements for its men's and women's hoops action.

Auto Owners Insurance is now sponsoring Big Ten Tip-Off Show, which airs Wednesday and Saturday, while hotelier Hampton is affixed to Big Ten Tonight — The Finale, the post-game show for the men's contests.

For its part, State Farm is the sponsor for the halftime show. All told, BTN will air 105 men's and 55 women's games this season on the linear network.

“State Farm has been a long-time supporter of most schools that make up the Big Ten Conference,” said State Farm advertising director Ed Gold. “So advertising on the Big Ten Network is an extension of what we do on the local level with the universities themselves and what we do from a national level based on our corporate partnership with the NCAA.”

Roy Seinfeld, BTN senior vice advertising sales, said the deals were finalized in recent weeks after the Big Ten tipped off intra-conference play. In addition to their sponsored components, the pacts contain “significant” buys within the games. While not specifying the value of the agreements, Seinfeld said they were all in the “six figures.”

“These added-value components help marketers develop efficiencies for their media plans,” said Seinfeld.

He noted that Hampton had a presence in the network's football coverage, while Auto Owners and State Farm joined its ad roster for the first time.

They're part of group that includes Nissan, Infinity, Suzuki, Bass Pro Shops, Edward Jones, the U.S. Marine Corps, Solo, Champion, agricultural firm Cargill, restaurant chains Buffalo Wild Wings and Red Lobster, sandwich shop Jimmy John's and RoTel, a division of ConAgra foods.

Overall, Seinfeld said the network has rung up “significant advertising increases” over the net's rookie year. Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman said the service has already exceeded its ad goals for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

— Mike Reynolds

Verizon Gets Closer in Philly

Philadelphia— Verizon Communications's Philadelphia franchise passed its second-to-last hurdle Jan. 22, as the agreement was approved with some amendments by the Public Property and Public Works Committee. That committee recommended the cable agreement be approved by the full city council, which could come as early as Jan. 29.

The franchise agreement is still the subject of criticism by public-access activists, who say they weren't part of the negotiating process. According to press reports, the local Digital Justice Coalition wants assurance that Verizon's infrastructure and grants will be used to close the digital divide in the city.

Public-access advocates are closely following the process, for Philadelphia may be the largest U.S. city without public-access programming. The franchise of incumbent Comcast was amended in 2007 to create $6.7 million in public-access funding in the next eight years, and an access corporation has been formed. Five access channels are expected to be activated, possibly this year, but no studio has been set up yet.

Once facilities are operational, Verizon's contract would require the company to eventually interconnect with Comcast's access channels.

The contract before the City Council would require Verizon to pay into the public-access coffers, but not until the fifth year of its franchise. After that date, the telco should pay grants of $1 million for educational access, $1.5 million for government access and $2.7 million for public access.

The franchise also calls for Verizon to wire City Hall, the city's Board of Education building, its community college and three other universities: Drexel, LaSalle and Temple. PEG operating funds of $500,000 a year would be paid after the fifth anniversary as well.

Like Comcast, Verizon would pay the city a 5% franchise fee. According to the franchise, its performance may be reviewed annually and it is required to have a local service manager and offices, among other local customer-service obligations.

— Linda Haugsted

Verizon Gets Closer in Philly

Stone To Head
Flo TV Unit
San Diego — Qualcomm has hired longtime wireless-industry executive Bill Stone as senior vice president and president of Flo TV.

Stone, who will join Qualcomm on Feb. 2, was previously CEO of mobile-content aggregator Handango. He replaces Gina Lombardi, a 2009 Multichannel News “Woman to Watch,” who led the mobile-TV unit for the past three years.

“I would like to thank Gina for her leadership of Flo TV and look forward to her continued contributions at Qualcomm,” said Len Lauer, Qualcomm executive vice president and chief operating officer, in a statement.

According to a Qualcomm spokeswoman, Lombardi's title continues to be senior vice president as she evaluates internal opportunities at the company.

— Todd Spangler