With the opportunity for statewide reach, regional sports networks (RSNs) feel they offer political candidates an enticing playing field and are making a bid for a large cut of the flush election
dollars. Through rep firm Home Team Sports, RSNs have been landing deals with the presidential contenders in multiple swing states.
One pitch from HTS, owned by the Fox Sports Media Group, is that candidates don’t need to go market-by-market in a state such as Florida. They can buy widely via Fox Sports Florida or Sun Sports.
Most of the RSNs sold by HTS are owned by Fox, but others are part of DirecTV, Comcast and other entities. The portfolio includes the Yes Network in the New York area and NESN in New England, as well as the multi-state Big Ten Network and new Pac-12 Network.
HTS began to move aggressively into the political arena in 2008 and expects revenue to be up 50% this fall.
With research showing that local sports teams generate some of the most engaged viewing, the sales group is floating a 2011 study from Smith Geiger showing political spots on RSNs generate 32% higher unaided recall than local news. The study included 2,400 registered voters ages 35 to 64 in four markets.
HTS also found that when there was a single spot in a pod, unaided recall was 9% higher on an RSN.
“Studies show that viewers are more engaged and respond more favorably to political ads that run in local sports programming than those that run in alternatives found in prime time and news programming,” said HTS Senior Vice President Craig Sloan. “RSNs deliver better scale and message retention than previously believed.”
HTS has been generating business in battleground states such as New Hampshire (NESN), Ohio (Big Ten Network and RSNs) and Virginia (MASN).
The group also looks to customize buys to allow a candidate to zero in on hotly contested turf. For example, GOP hopeful Sen. John McCain wanted to target New Mexico voters in 2008. So HTS launched a special feed of Fox Sports Arizona reaching the state.
In addition to dollars from President Obama and Gov. Romney, HTS is using its border-to-border reach to appeal to Senate and gubernatorial candidates, which gives it opportunities outside the states the White House hopefuls are not contesting.