Time Warner’s Turner may best be known for big cable networks like CNN, TBS and TNT. But the unit has quietly built up an arsenal of top-tier sports programming that it now hopes to leverage to develop new relationships with Madison Avenue.
The TV unit will launch Turner Ignite Sports, a unit devoted to offer marketing services to advertisers – and not just to sell them TV commercials. Executives said the new shop could work to develop intellectual property associated with its networks’ airings of games from the National Basketball Association; post-season Major League Baseball; the new “E-League” videogame program; or NCAA “March Madness” men’s championship basketball. The unit will also be able to help develop live events around some of the sports match-ups, along with commercials tailored for particular sports broadcasts and proprietary data that will help target the ads to specific audiences. Turner also owns sports-media site Bleacher Report.
The announcement is meant to build upon a range of efforts Turner has unveiled in the past year to develop deeper relationships with sponsors. The company has begun to run shows on TBS, TNT and TruTV with fewer ads, and worked to develop a range of commercials that are meant to tie in to specific programs and particular moments. “We think these things can change and help make advertising better,” said Dan Riess, executive vice president of content partnerships and co-head of Turner Ignite, in an interview.
Sports programming is among TV’s most costly, and TV networks are always seeking ways to defray the mammoth costs of programming rights. In some ways, sports programs are easier to align with commericals: There is little prepared dialogue, and viewers who are watching live have fewer means of avoiding the ads. Turner executives feel they can serve as a sort of one-stop shop, helping advertiser identify programming opportunities, helping them craft ads and perhaps even assist in developing a partnership with athletes, “We feel that it has become really complicated for brand to navigate the maze whenever they go out to generate a sports-marketing platform, said Will Funk, executive vice president of sales and property sponsorships for Turner Sports. “We think we can have a more direct relationship with these clients and provide them a suite of services.”