Peacock plays volleyball

NBC Sports to bring 14 hours of live tourney coverage

Hell-bent on filling a Sunday-afternoon vacuum during the summer, NBC Sports has ramped up its carriage of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour.

Linking up with Nissan, NBC will broadcast 14 hours of live tournament coverage covering five events of both men’s and women’s volleyball beginning in Cincinnati on July 3.

The schedule continues with the finals for both men and women at the Hermosa Beach Open on July 24, the Huntington Beach Open on Aug. 14 and the Manhattan Beach Open on Aug. 21.

NBC’s coverage climaxes Sept. 4 in Chicago with a two-hour championship final.

AVP will pay NBC a license fee to buy the time on the network for the events. NBC also gets an equity stake in the AVP to give the net incentive to promote the events.

In addition to harvesting the 99% of U.S. homes delivered by NBC, AVP also sells all of the advertising time in each telecast.

AVP offers advertisers what it calls “exclusive branded content,” meaning not only 30-second spots but billboards on the field and product integration within the show.

For example, while the players are warming up before they enter the arena, viewers will see a Nissan vehicle parked nearby with the logo clearly visible.

Fox regional fix

Fox Sports Net, the umbrella operation for 14 regional sports networks, will cover nine other volleyball events under a deal similar to NBC’s. Some of the Fox regionals will carry the events live and the rest on tape delay. Fox will also produce 18 episodes of “Dig,” a weekly half-hour magazine hosted by Chris McGee with features on the sport, its coaches and players.

Len Armato, commissioner of the AVP Nissan Series, said that through its sponsorship of the tour series, Nissan will be able to buy the most 30-second spots within the telecasts, get lots of brand integration into the coverage and pick up the most on-site presence in billboards.

The AVP has also signed a deal with Comcast’s Outdoor Life Network. Outdoor will carry 28 hours of live events that NBC and Fox can’t accommodate.

Assn. of Volleyball Players features more than 150 of the top American men and women competitors in the sport. AVP athletes chalked up both a gold and bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

(Josef Adalian in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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