SNY Adds Advertisers with UConn Women's Basketball Coverage

SNY is in its rookie year televising UConn women’s basketball, but is already reaping advertising sales benefits as the official television home of the Lady Huskies.

SNY, in presenting a 20-game package and a host of shoulder programming around the club that is currently ranked second nationally and has won seven NCAA titles under coach Geno Auriemma, has expanded its budgets with a number of clients and dunked new business tied to UConn’s distaff hoopers.

Moreover, SNY, in supplanting Connecticut Public Television after an 18-year run through a four-year multimedia rights package valued at some $4.55 million, is now offering its distribution partners a chance to sell two minutes of local avails per hour in what will amount to almost 350 hours of live game coverage, encores and related programming during the 2012-13 school year.

“We think we’re bringing value to fans, viewers, the university and affiliates,” said Steve Raab, president of SNY, which is best known as the cable home of MLB’s New York Mets. 

Announced last May, the new agreement expands SNY’s relationship with UConn, as the RSN is the local television home for the school’s football and men’s basketball programs through rights granted by the Big East Conference to ESPN Regional Television. Raab said that within six weeks after reaching the deal with the football and men’s basketball teams in August 2010, SNY was able to plug its remaining distribution holes in Connecticut, filling in gaps with systems owned by Comcast, Cox and Charter in the Nutmeg State.

SNY counts 8.7 million subscribers in its coverage area of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and northeastern Pennsylvania and its national reach approaches 14 million homes through pacts with DirecTV, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse and Comcast.

Now the women’s rights package is “opening more doors” on the advertising front. Raab said SNY has expanded budgets with more than a half-dozen local/regional auto dealerships, including Cadillac and Mercedes. Moreover, the programming pact prompted Yale New Haven Hospital and Connecticut Lighting Centers to become first-time SNY advertisers.

The initial run with the team has also resulted in a major budgetary uptick with People’s United Bank, which held its first meet-and-greet event on Nov. 13 as SNY team announcers Meghan Culmo and Kara Wolters took photos and signed autographs for fans at the branch in West Hartford.

Four days earlier, SNY advertising clients participated in the program’s initial fantasy camp. Participants were bedecked in UConn uniforms, introduced on the PA at on-campus arena, Gampel Pavilion, and played in a full-court game guided by the women team’s coaching staff.

The Lady Huskies are also scoring on the affiliate ad sales level. Jim Simonetti, local media sales manager for Cox Connecticut, called SNY’s obtaining rights to the women’s team  “good news for viewers and a lot of advertisers. There is equal interest for some advertisers with the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The UConn women are a major sports team in the state of Connecticut.”

Working with “SNY on the pregame show, and some of the special programming allows for some significant client branding opportunities,” Simonetti said, without disclosing sponsor names. The 12-year veteran said Cox is packaging Lady Huskies’ local avails along with the units found in men’s basketball and football games that run on SNY, ESPN, ESPNU, Big East Mondays and in/around March Madness.

As for its first contest, SNY, which is also proffering a streaming subscription package of the women’s games mirroring its TV schedule, netted a 4.36 household rating in the Hartford-New Haven DMA, off slightly from CPTV’s opening telecast of the last two seasons. However, the Nov. 11 telecast – a Huskies’ 103-39 blowout of the College of Charleston – went up against an NFL Sunday, featuring both the New England Patriots and New York Giants as competition in the early window.

Aided by a dual feed into Connecticut that allows for encores, Raab said SNY’s contest telecasts, pre- and post-game shows originating from SNY’s street-level studio in Manhattan, and ancillary programming will combine to approach some 350 hours this season. That total includes the season preview show and Huskies All Access, a Hard Knocks look of sorts at the club, where the RSN gained “unfettered access to the team on and off the court for 96 hours.” An in-season weekly coach’s show with Auriemma and Geno’s Legacy in which former players are interviewed and share updates about their lives are also in the mix.

Raab said SNY over the course of the contract will continue to work on building its UConn programming schedule: “It’s a really complete package. I don’t know that there is another college program receiving this much attention.”

Asked about the University of Oklahoma’s recent deal with Fox Sports that encompasses some 1,000 hours across various sports, Raab noted that package “doesn’t reach 14 million homes.” He added that SNY has worldwide rights to UConn women and the RSN doesn’t have to black out programming, including games, to distributors out of market.

“SNY’s national footprint was a big selling point with the university,” he said. “All that programming is an incredible recruiting tool.”