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TBS Serves Up Football, With Movie Twist

Reentering the college football arena for the first time in more than a decade, TBS Superstation is looking to tackle viewers on Saturday nights by pairing its game package with movies.

Kicking off on Sept. 14, the network's "Big Play Saturday" gambit has also involved teamwork in pitching Madison Avenue, as Turner Sports and Turner Entertainment sales staffers have both sold inventory in the block that will run from 7 p.m. to midnight.

TBS struck a six-year deal with Fox Sports Net last February for rights to a combined 11 Pacific 10 and Big 12 Conference games per year. Those groups, along with the Southeastern Conference, which TBS last carried in 1991, and the Big 10 are usually tops in the nation.

Movies to air include Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Lethal Weapon 4
and Dumb & Dumber.

"We'd been looking to get back into college football for a couple of years. But we wouldn't have done it unless we could get top-level conferences and make the package stand out from all the other college football," said Turner Sports senior vice president of marketing and programming Steve Raab. "We think the movie combination will help us do that."

Big Play is a new twist on a TBS trend to present theatrical films with hosts under such franchise headings as "Dinner and a Movie" and "Movies for Guys Who Like Movies," as well as "Man-Made Movies," whose set has been adapted for Big Play.

A frat-house-like set will feature studio host Ernie Johnson Jr. during the games. After the game, Johnson hands over hosting responsibilities to Cheri Christian and Matt Arden during the "Movie Bowl" portion.

Christian and Arden's promos will often reference game action and will be done live.

The set, on which footballs will be tossed back and forth, also will feature product placements for one sponsor per week, according to Turner Sports senior vice president of sales and marketing Chris Eames.

"Advertisers like the concept and the quality of the conferences," Eames said. "They also like our reach.

"ABC and Fox Sports Net regionalize their coverage of these conferences, so we're the only way to provide national reach."

Eames said Best Buy Stores Inc., Discover Card and T Mobile bought ad packages that gives each the presenting-sponsor designation for a set of games. Chili's Restaurants is the halftime title sponsor, while Home Depot will back the orange on-air line TBS will use to indicate first downs.