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Giant Windfall for Patriot Game - Broadcasting & Cable

Giant Windfall for Patriot Game

New York, Boston affiliates cash in on Super Bowl
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WFXT Boston VP/General Manager Gregg Kelley is trying hard not to use what's become an overused expression, but for him, the Super Bowl represents nothing less than a perfect storm. Start with the hometown New England Patriots being in the game, along with the team's pursuit of a history-making undefeated season. Add to the mix the opponent: None other than the rival New York Giants, from the No. 1 TV market.

“In all my years of doing this,” Kelley says in a thick Bah-stin accent, “the interest level is as high, if not higher, than anything I've done.”

That includes the Patriots' Bowl wins in 2002 and 2005, the Red Sox famously reversing the curse in 2004, and claiming another World Series win last year.

Indeed, it's been a charmed few years for Kelley and the Fox-owned station. He estimates that having the local favorite Pats in the big game this year is good for about five times what the revenue would have been without them, and this year's ad rates are about 30% higher than what they were for the 2005 Super Bowl. (Local spots are said to go for $400,000- $500,000; see cover story on page 18.)

WFXT isn't the only area station cashing in on Super Sunday. There's been nothing short of a bare-knuckle brawl in Beantown among TV outlets fighting to call themselves the “official” Patriots station. According to a recent Boston Globe story, CBS O&O WBZ likely shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Patriots for the right to dub itself “the official Patriots Playoff Station.” Rival WHDH was then compelled to drop its “Patriots Nation Station” status.

All the local TV players are loading up on Super Bowl action. Dubbing its Bowl coverage “Pursuit of Perfection,” Hearst-Argyle's WCVB kicked off Patriots All Access Jan. 26, and live reports from Arizona Jan. 27. WFXT has specials airing at 7:30 weeknights in advance of the big game, and a 10:30 p.m. Patriots broadcast on Super Bowl eve.

Meanwhile, some 200 miles south on I-95, New York stations are also making the most of their good fortune. WNBC is producing a pair of Super Bowl-themed episodes of sports talker Mike'd Up, while WCBS is partnering with corporate cousins WFAN and CBS Sports for a one-hour special at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2.

Fox-owned duopoly WNYW and WWOR is sending about 15 staffers to Arizona for its Bowl coverage. Each weeknight at 7:30, WNYW is airing Giants specials, and is dedicating the second half-hour of its late news to all things Big Blue. Good Day New York host Jodi Applegate reports live from Phoenix Wednesday through Friday.

“Just having the Super Bowl is huge, but having a local team in it is very fortuitous,” says WNYW/WWOR VP/General Manager Lew Leone, who mentions Super Bowl ad rates jumping around 50% after the Giants claimed their spot. “It's once in a lifetime; it's winning Lotto.”

Stations are also using the Web to feed the fan frenzy. WNYW has video on myfoxny.com of the supposedly lucky “Super Bowl March” dance performed by hardcore fans. Not to be outdone, WCVB invites everyone who's named a child after Pats quarterback Tom Brady to post a photo of their spawn on bostonchannel.com. Much as it did during the fall's World Series, WFXT is encouraging fans to email “Shout-Outs” to players, and a “Trash Talk” feature links fans from Fox-owned stations all across Patriot Nation. (Sample post: “We ought to call the New York Giants' fans 'The GREEN Giants'...as in, GREEN with ENVY!”)

Blogging the bowl

For the first time, WFXT is sending Web producers to blog and provide local color on myfoxboston.com. “It's fun for people who never got to experience a Super Bowl in person,” says Kelley, who saw a 40% boost in Web traffic the week before the Patriots' AFC Championship win.

While the Super Bowl might start to feel like old hat to Patriots fans, Kelley says the luster never seems to wear off. The 2005 Super Bowl, which saw the Patriots top the Philadelphia Eagles, posted a 53 rating/78 share. Kelley says that number, like Peyton Manning's old touchdown mark before Tom Brady met Randy Moss, can be topped. “It's probably the greatest viewer and advertiser interest I've ever seen,” he says.

E-mail comments to michael.malone@reedbusiness.com

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