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ESPN and Cablevision Are Set to Announce a Game-Changing Data Deal

Marrying audience data and viewing habits

ESPN will announce a first-of-its-kind data deal with a cable TV provider at its upfront presentation tomorrow.

The agreement combines audience data from Cablevision, the primary pay TV provider in New York's outer boroughs and suburbs, with ESPN viewing habits. Advertisers will be able to see how long ESPN's audience spends on a particular sport and the time of day they're most engaged. 

"We kind of mutually said, 'What if we were to marry both of these?' It would be a first," said Ed Erhardt, ESPN's president of global customer marketing and sales. "And because we have the scale, we can offer something substantial to the advertiser."

ESPN is a digital powerhouse nowadays with almost 100 million unique visitors a month.

"They're obviously a killer brand in the TV space and dominant on a cross-platform basis, so they were a logical partner for us," said Cablevision media sales president Ben Tatta. "And we're really pleased they embraced us." 

Erhardt said offering specific multiscreen data to advertisers was "a very compelling proposition." The new deal will help match ESPN impressions with sales data and other relevant information to accurately determine value, demonstrating ROI to advertisers.

"The ultimate goal in this is really to measure advertising ROI and the value of the ESPN impression across platforms," Tatta said.

ESPN might be the main beneficiary of the deal, but the agreement also applies to the broader Walt Disney Company. Other Disney-owned networks can use the data to inform ad sales.

"We hear from customers all the time: getting access to set-top box data, relative to how [ESPN] is consumed, is vital," Erhardt said. "Now we've got access to it."  

Both companies expressed interest in making similar deals in the near future. Cablevision is talking to other networks, and ESPN is looking to get in front of other multichannel video programming distributors, or MVPDs.

"We're not going to discriminate; our whole goal is to make this data available," Tatta said. "It has been the one thing that has held the industry back to a certain extent. There hasn't been this robust data set on television as there is on digital. So, it's in our best interest to make it as available as possible."

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