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DirecTV and NCC See Sense in Teaming Up

DirecTV and the ad-sales firm NCC, owned by three cable operators, claimed last week that their partnership will be a win-win for both sides, even though the satellite provider and MSOs compete for video customers.

NCC — a venture of Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable — and DirecTV said NCC will assume national spot representation for the satellite provider for the regional sports networks it offers in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

NCC will integrate the regional sports network feeds currently offered to DirecTV customers into cable-advertising interconnects in those nine U.S. markets.

The system is beta-testing in Chicago, with the interconnect ad-insertion gear in place and available for the upcoming pro basketball and hockey seasons, according to DirecTV senior vice president of ad sales Bob Riordan.

“Then the goal is to roll out the other markets for opening day of Major League Baseball next season,” Riordan said. “We are building this to scalability.”

Currently, DirecTV uses local avails on the regional sports channels it carries to either run marketing spots, or lets the sports nets cover those local avails with direct-response ads, according to Riordan. He called local ad inventory on RSNs an “asset that we haven’t utilized” but is ready to be exploited, using NCC and its hundreds of sales people and organizational contacts.

NCC president Greg Schaefer said that the partnership will be a benefit to local and national advertisers.

“Satellite has been viewed as always a network buy because they didn’t have the ability to break down the signal to individual marketplaces: Obviously, this is a first step in that direction,” he said. “And [DirecTV] didn’t have a local sales force to support the spot dollars that come into individual markets.”

Despite the competition between DirecTV and cable, officials said that NCC and the satellite provider can reap benefits by teaming up on the spot ad-sales side.

“NCC has always been in the eyeball business, and it’s been our obligation to aggregate all of these audiences on behalf of the advertising agencies, and to give them a one-stop shop for buying the local marketplace,” Schaefer said.

Said Riordan, “They are competitors on a certain level, but also there are ways where it makes perfect business sense by doing things with them. As they do us, we have a great deal of respect for our competitors. They’re good, smart business people.”