Satcaster, Col TriStar pact to sell ad time

Citing rapid subscriber growth, satellite broadcaster DirecTV said Monday it will begin selling advertising time on its service, and has inked a multiyear agreement with Columbia TriStar TV Distribution to serve as the satcaster’s exclusive national representative.

DirecTV’s first ads will debut March 1.

The deal marks the first time the 5-year-old satcaster has sold advertising on its service. Various channels on the DirecTV lineup already feature national advertising, but come pre-packaged with cable programming.

Since its launch in 1994, DirecTV has filled the two minute spots it will now sell to national advertisers each hour with inhouse blurbs for upcoming pay-per-view events and other promos.

Large sub base

With 4.6 million subscribers, the satcaster now has a large enough audience base to command coin for those avails.

“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while to create another stream of income,” said DirecTV prexy Eddy W. Hartenstein. “It’s another step in the maturation process.”

DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics recently merged with U.S. Satellite Broadcasting and acquired satcaster PrimeStar, with 2.3 million subscribers. Together, the transactions will give DirecTV more than 370 channels and increase the service’s subscriber base to 8 or 9 million by 2000, said Hartenstein.

As part of the agreement, CTTD’s advertiser sales division (CTAS) will handle sales duties pushing the national spots on the 185 cable nets and ad-supported channels on the DirecTV platform.

Pacting for ad sales

In teaming with CTTD, DirecTV sidesteps the significant cost of assembling an inhouse advertising sales force. CTTD already has a full-fledged unit to handle the sales of barter time reserved in the studio’s syndie and cable programming slate.

CTAS sells advertising for firstrun and off-net programming, including such shows as “Seinfeld,” “Mad About You,” “Ricki Lake,” “VIP” and “The Dating Game,” and is responsible for national advertising sales for Sony’s the Game Show Network.

Initially, CTAS will offer avails to national advertisers in clusters that will target the demographics of sports, news, information and entertainment programming.

Additionally, avails will be offered in such DirecTV sports packages as NFL Sunday Ticket, which delivers up to 13 games every Sunday of the regular season, and “Mega March Mania,” which will deliver up to 34 out-of-market games from the first three rounds of the 1999 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Advertisers will also have the opportunity to develop targeted campaigns utilizing new interactive and e-commerce services DirecTV plans to introduce beginning this year.

“The landscape for media buying is changing, and our relationship with CTAS will allow us to expand our business and generate incremental revenue,” Hartenstein said.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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