On Wisconsin for Great Outdoor Games

ESPN will move its Great Outdoor Games franchise to Madison, Wis., next July, and Charter Communications Inc. will support the event both locally and throughout its footprint.

The fifth annual event -- featuring target shooting, sporting dogs, fishing and log-rolling competitions -- will be held in Madison July 8-11. Previous games had been held in Lake Placid, N.Y., and last year in Reno/Lake Tahoe, Nev.

ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC are scheduled to air more than 20 hours of the competition.

Charter president and CEO Carl Vogel, speaking on a conference call while attending the Western Show in Anaheim, Calif., said the MSO will devote significant cross-channel avails to tout the Outdoor Games, and it will use bill-stuffers and other materials to help generate awareness and tune-in nationally.

Vogel noted that Charter -- which was associated with the 2003 Games in Nevada -- would also be involved in a number of promotional programs in Wisconsin to help build attendance there.

Vogel also spoke about opportunities to help buttress Charter’s local ad business not only through the selling of Outdoor packages, but by bringing key clients to the Games. "This is not a huge money-maker for Charter, but it is the right thing for us to do in the community," he added.

Christine Godleski, vice president and general manager of ESPN Outdoors, said that while ratings were up 16% on ABC’s coverage last summer, viewership was "down slightly" on ESPN and ESPN2, which still captured some 28 million watchers.

"We see tremendous opportunities ahead by working with Charter and bringing the Outdoor Games to Wisconsin," she said, noting that the state had the largest contingent of participating athletes with more than 20 in 2003.