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ESPN Kicks Off HD NFL Sweeps

ESPN kicked off a sweepstakes tied to its Sunday Night Football telecasts last week that the network said is aimed at helping cable affiliates drive sales of HDTV and digital-cable programming packages.

Viewers will be able to enter the sweepstakes by ordering an HDTV programming package or digital-cable tier from their local operator. After each National Football League game, ESPN will award first-prize winners from teams playing in the game an HDTV. Second prize is a pack that includes a water bottle, sweatshirt, hat and other gear.

One grand prize winner will get two tickets to a Sunday Night Football game, including transportation, hotel accommodations, meals, a tour of the network’s production truck and a meeting with on-air talent.

While ESPN could potentially hand out 36 HDTVs to winners in local markets over the end of its 18-game season — one to subscribers in the home team’s market, and a second to fans of the away team, only a handful of systems had signed up for the sweepstakes last week. They were: Comcast Corp.’s Boston Denver, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Tennessee and Washington systems, in addition to Time Warner Cable’s Houston system and Cox Communications Inc.’s Las Vegas operation.

Participating affiliates must run dozens of taggable cross-channel tune-in spots for ESPN’s Sunday Night Football telecasts. ESPN is also supplying affiliates with promotional CD-ROMs