NBC Sports making gains with football

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NEW YORK -- The healthy primetime TV market is extending to football.

NBC Sports said last week that it had received commitments for virtually all of the inventory that it has set aside for "Sunday Night Football" and the pregame "Football Night in America" in their sophomore season. It is receiving cost per thousand increases year-over-year in the low double digits, an average of between 9% and 12%.

"It's a very healthy marketplace," said Seth Winter, senior vp Sports & Olympic Sales at NBC. Most if not all the major sponsors will return, and it's likely that Toyota will remain the halftime sponsor, he said.

That's good news for NBC, which saw its primetime fortunes improve with "Sunday Night Football" in the first year of its contract despite concerns that after a day of games on CBS and Fox there wouldn't be a lot of interest in a Sunday game. Those concerns were alleviated early.

"They are very confident about the fact that 'Sunday Night Football' is a wonderful franchise," Winter said.

The entire NFL marketplace, broadcast and cable, has been doing well this year. CBS remains with the AFC Sunday afternoon package; Fox has the NFC Sunday afternoon package and this year's Super Bowl. ESPN carries "Monday Night Football," which regularly ranked as one of the top cable shows in history in its first season last year.

A Fox Sports spokesman said that coming off a very strong 2006 season and a solid primetime upfront, "we expect the 2007 NFL marketplace to be very healthy as it heats up this summer."

"It's a reflection of not only the quality of the content and the quality of the sport and the reach of the sport, but the fact that the overall primetime marketplace is healthy," Winter said.

NBC Sports is making some changes to "Football Night in America." Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth and Jerome Bettis remain but will be joined by Tiki Barber and Keith Olbermann. And news/sports veteran Michael Weisman will lead as executive producer.
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