Industry News 5/28/2008

MTV Networks & NBC Universal Announce Action Sports Partnership on AST

MTV Networks & NBC Universal Announce Action Sports Partnership on AST
Competition, Music & Lifestyle to be Featured on MTV/NBC Joint Venture

MTV Networks Music Group, a division of Viacom’s MTV Networks (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B) and NBC Sports, a division of NBC Universal, Inc. today announced a wide ranging, strategic partnership to expand  the AST (Action Sports Tour), a global, youth-focused, multimedia, action sports business that includes the AST Dew Tour, the AST Winter Dew Tour and the amateur Free Flow Tour into a global brand that spans MTV and NBC’s multiple screens. Van Toffler, President, MTV Networks Music and Logo Group and Dick Ebersol, Chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics made the announcement. Action Sports Tour, LLC, the company that will operate the business, will be co-owned by MTV Networks and NBC Sports.

As part of the MTV Networks/NBC Universal alliance around the AST, MTV and MTV2 will provide lifestyle programming, targeted cross-promotion, multi-platform content and distribution, consumer products licensing and merchandising to the joint venture. NBC Sports will continue to produce extensive competition coverage of the AST tours and provide live network broadcasts and on-air promotion around AST competitions.

The addition of MTV and MTV2 programming for the AST nearly doubles what was already action sports’ largest annual television schedule. MTV and MTV2 will produce programming showcasing the AST competition as well as the lifestyle of some of action sports biggest names and those up and coming on the circuit. In addition, the music brands will highlight the musical aspects of the tour, with MTV2 spotlighting emerging local artists as part of the tour’s overall activities.   In addition, MTV will build upon the AST’s significant digital reach on AST.com, adding more tools, enhanced community, functionality and video content for users to interact with and find out more about the latest news from the tour 24/7 and throughout the year.

“MTV pioneered the marriage of music, sports and lifestyle back in the early 1990’s” said Van Toffler, President of MTV Networks Music and Logo Group. “Today, by joining forces with NBC Sports on the AST, we’ll be giving our audience the chance to experience a next generation sports tour that covers it all.”

Ebersol said:  “When we created the Action Sports Tour, we always hoped that one day MTV would be a strategic partner. The Tour will see immediate benefits from this alliance and is now uniquely positioned for long-term growth.”

In 2005, NBC Sports created and launched the Dew Tour, the first, season-long, nationally televised, competitive tour for the growing action sports of skateboarding, BMX and freestyle motocross with five events.  The AST umbrella brand for the various Tours and businesses was introduced in 2007 and in April 2008, the AST’s first international event, the AST China Invitational, was contested in Beijing.  Starting in December 2008, the three-stop Winter Dew Tour (snowboarding and free style skiing disciplines) for men and women will launch.  The AST’s Free Flow Tour started in 2005 and creates local skate park competition opportunities for top amateur skaters and BMX riders to compete against the AST’s pro athletes.

“This is a terrific partnership that blends truly complementary reach and expertise.  NBC Sports has demonstrated extraordinary vision from day one with the AST and coupled with the MTV and MTV2’s assets, the partnership will bolster the AST, and action sports as a whole, on so many levels,” said Wade Martin, AST President and General Manager. 

Martin will continue in his current role and will oversee tour sales, marketing, business development and operations for the MTVN/NBCU joint venture reporting to its board of directors.

For 44 consecutive quarters, MTV has been the #1 rated cable network for the coveted 12-24 year old audience. MTV has a history in programming sports music and lifestyle, with such series and specials as “MTV’s Sports,” “MTV’s Rock N’ Jock” and the “MTV Sports and Music Fesitval,” among others.  Its sister channel, MTV2 has the highest concentration of young males across all of cable. In addition, MTV Games and Harmonix launched “Rock Band,” in 2007 the wildly successful music-based video game.

The 2007 AST Dew Tour was the most watched action sports property globally, including an estimated 41 million domestic viewers consuming the combined 33 hours of AST programming on NBC Sports and the USA Network. The summer Dew Tour also has domestic distribution partnerships with NBCU’s Universal HD, Fox’s Fuel, Rush HD and Hulu.com, the Internet video sharing network. In addition, the summer Dew Tour is distributed in over 100 countries and available in 23 different languages on six continents in 280 million homes worldwide on Eurosport, Eurosport2, Fox Sports International, Extreme Channel, China’s CCTV and Fox/Fuel Australia, as well as on a variety of new media platforms including Broadband, Cable MSO Video-on-Demand. Sony’s PSP and Verizon Wireless. In 2007, NBC began live, international broadcasting of AST events through multi-year agreements with Eurosport2 and Fox/Fuel Australia.

The 2008 AST Dew Tour kicks off its fourth season in Baltimore June 19-22 with the Panasonic Open.  The Tour resumes July 17-20 with the Right Guard Open from Cleveland.  On August 21-24, Portland hosts the Wendy’s Invitational.  The Toyota Challenge will take place in Salt Lake City on September 11-14 and the Tour concludes with the PlayStation Pro October 16-19 from Orlando.  The first Winter Dew Tour begins December 18.