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NFL Replays Drive Distribution

With the start of the 2004-05 National Football League season, NFL Network went long with its on-demand highlights package.

Billed as “NFL Replay,” the service features 10 to 15 minutes of highlights from every NFL game, available to cable's VOD-enabled customers within hours after the conclusion of the matchup.

The application has proven to be one of the most popular VOD plays around and has helped the network, which bowed in November 2003, drive distribution for its linear service. The on-demand component has helped push affiliates' digital-cable acquisitions and reduced churn. For those reasons, NFL Network has notched a second-place award in the free category of CTAM's 2005 On Demand Cast Study Competition.

To tackle consumer interest, NFL Network and director of affiliate marketing Jamia Bigalow (now with Fox Cable Networks) ran print ads in USA Today and NFL Fantasy Preview magazine; cross-channel spots trumpeted NFL Network On Demand, the extended highlights and stunt programming. Cross-promotion was also put to work: spots were inserted within the VOD programming driving people to the linear service, while spots ran on the linear service promoting NFL Network On Demand.

Officials also used consumer e-mail messages, targeting playoff markets and Super Bowl fans by matching affiliate ZIP codes to the NFL database to reach customers and non-customers.

In its inaugural year, NFL Network On Demand, then available to more than 8 million VOD-enabled homes, generated more than 9 million views and continually ranked in the Top 10 of free on demand content.

Usage was primarily driven by local-market highlights. But there also was strong demand for the product from out-of-market fans.

As a result, NFL Network on Demand has ranked as the most-viewed sports VOD service since it kicked off last September, network officials said.

As for the e-mail efforts, more than 500,000 messages were delivered, generating an open rate of just under 20%.