Verizon Drops $3 Million in BET.com Sponsorship Deal

Telco powerhouse Verizon Communications is betting big on portal sponsorship, announcing Wednesday a three-year, $3 million pact with BET.com.

The deal with Black Entertainment Television’s Web portal — one of the most heavily trafficked Web sites geared specifically to African Americans — officially names Verizon as the site’s preferred telecom partner.

Essentially, this means that the companies will work to create special content areas and to market special plans and products to the site’s membership.

According to terms of the deal, New York-based Verizon will sponsor the site’s “Lifestyle” Channel, which provides online movie reviews, entertainment news and gossip.

As part of the deal, the channel will now include a “communications center,” which will provide Verizon-friendly information “on helping customers simplify and enhance their lives using telecommunications products and services,” according to a statement by the company. The area will also include links to Verizon’s online customer service center and product information.

The companies also said that the two will look into future ways to market Verizon’s products on the site.

“We are delighted to be selected as Verizon’s primary online resource to connect with the African-American community,” said BET.com chief operating officer Scott Mills. “This arrangement with Verizon is a great addition to our significant relationships with industry-leading companies who have made BET.com their online platform to reach African Americans.”

Verizon executives said the company benefits from exclusive rights to market on the site.

“This sponsorship provides a unique opportunity to strengthen Verizon’s link to the African-American and urban communities and positions us to be a leader in this market,” said Gregory Smith, director of consumer ethnic markets for Verizon. “This type of partnership increases our ability to offer affordable, customized product and service bundles to diverse customer segments.”

The deal is also a boost for BET.com, as niche and general-interest portals across the board are struggling with flagging ad revenues, and traditional advertisers are only lately moving into the online sponsorship space.

Washington, D.C.-based BET.com also has been busy working to expand its content offerings to solidify its position as a leading destination for African American and urban Internet users. In October, the company snapped up urban lifestyle and news site 360hiphop.com, created by Def Jam mogul Russell Simmons.

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