April 21st, 2008

AT&T Stadium Deal with Cowboys Would be More Than a Name

By Andrea Ahles
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Stuck in a business meeting in China, a Dallas Cowboys fan realizes he has missed the team’s news conference the day before the critical Washington Redskins game.

But if a naming- and media-rights deal between the Cowboys and AT&T is reached, that fan could use his AT&T iPhone to watch that conference and other exclusive Cowboys content.

That is one scenario sketched out by industry analysts that could be the result of a deal that could take naming-rights agreements to a new level.

According to a draft document obtained by the Star-Telegram on April 11, AT&T and the Cowboys are in serious negotiations to put the telecommunications giant’s name on the team’s new stadium in Arlington, calling it AT&T Field.

The document also detailed a media-rights agreement in which the Cowboys would provide 10 hours of weekly exclusive content to AT&T to distribute across its wireless, Internet and cable networks.

“This is no longer a naming-rights deal,” said David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Sports Business Institute. “This is a corporate alliance at every level.”

While analysts have estimated that the stadium’s naming-rights alone could be worth $10 million to $18 million a year, adding media rights could add millions of dollars more to the agreement for both sides.

“It’s pretty cutting-edge,” said Rob Vogel, president of The Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports marketing firm. “My guess is there is some revenue sharing in there that allows for both parties to share in the upside.”

What’s being discussed

AT&T and the Dallas Cowboys won’t discuss the negotiations—outlined in a document titled “AT&T Field Naming Sponsorship and Media Rights Agreement”—and have said there is currently no deal between the two parties.

The document spells out a deal in which the Cowboys would provide AT&T with $1 million a year to distribute the content and possibly would rename a street near the stadium AT&T Parkway. Net revenues for the content are still apparently in negotiations.

What it means for AT&T

For AT&T, this could be the first deal where it leverages its brand to attract new customers with sports content.

Its naming-rights agreements with the San Francisco Giants (AT&T Park) and the San Antonio Spurs (AT&T Center) came from SBC Communications, which merged with AT&T in 2005.

“AT&T is going to benefit tremendously from what the Cowboys will provide,” Vogel said. “There are a lot of Cowboys fans that can’t get enough Cowboys.”

The telecommunications industry has moved toward bundling services, such as cable TV and wireless, local and long-distance phone, all in one bill. With these networks, original content is becoming more valuable, said Jeff Kagan, a telecommunication analyst in Atlanta.

“This allows AT&T to deliver content that the customer cannot get any place else and deliver it in a way that is very compelling,” Kagan said.

Moving beyond logos

When naming-rights deals became popular in the 1990s, most agreements simply placed a company’s logo on the side of a stadium or arena.

But a possible Cowboys-AT&T deal would go much further, analysts agree.

Only one other recent naming-rights deal has expanded past signage: In 2006, the Oakland Athletics and Cisco Systems agreed to a deal in which Cisco provided 143 acres for the new major league ballpark in Fremont, Calif. The ballpark, which will likely open in 2012, will also showcase Cisco Internet technology.

“If [the Cowboys-AT&T deal] does go through, it’s a good partnership,” Vogel said. “It’s a partnership that both sides can win from.”

BIG DEALS

Other recent naming-rights agreements:

Citi Field, Queens, N.Y.

Team: New York Mets

Terms: $400 million for 20 years

Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Team: New Jersey Nets

Terms: $400 million for 20 years

Cisco Field, Fremont, Calif.

Team: Oakland Athletics

Terms: $120 million for 30 years, plus the sale of 143 acres for the stadium

What’s in the proposal

Highlights of a possible naming-rights deal between the Dallas Cowboys and AT&T:

A stadium Web site would be created.

The team would provide AT&T $1 million to distribute exclusive content each year.

The team would create 10 hours of exclusive content each week to be distributed over AT&T’s networks.

The team would make reasonable efforts to rename a street near the stadium AT&T Parkway.

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