- Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin’s parents rally against Fla. ‘stand your ground’ law
- Hillary Clinton campaign got illicit funds from D.C. scandal figure
- Obama administration backs off plan to cut prescription-drug program
- Tickets linked to stolen passports purchased by Iranian middleman
- More than 3,500 police planned for Boston Marathon
- Ottawa day care suspends 2-year-old for ‘outside’ cheese sandwich
- Liam Neeson tells NYC mayor to ‘man up’ in horse carriage fight
- Real-life Dr. Doolittle to reveal how to talk to animals
- Climate change could bring back smallpox, researchers say
- Shoe-bomb witness to speak from London at N.Y. trial
ESPN, college sites forming partnerships
As college football’s best get ready for battle in the August heat, fans increasingly may turn to ESPN for even the most minute details on their favorite players and teams, from an injury to a freshman center at Ohio State to a kicking controversy at Kentucky.
Quietly over the last year, ESPN has forged relationships with some of the most popular team-dedicated sites on the Internet, offering to share its own content while using the sites to broaden its audience at ESPN.com.
ESPN is expected to have “affiliate” deals with 17 sites by the beginning of the upcoming college football season and is in talks with as many as a dozen more. It hopes to build a roster of more than 50 sites by next year.
The relationships are essentially content-sharing partnerships with no money exchanging hands. The sites, with names like TheBigSpur.com, Bucknuts.com and GatorCountry.com, are expected to keep their independent identities.
“They have a lot of the content we need to bring to our readers, and they need a national scale,” said David Geaslen, ESPN’s vice president of high school sports and recruiting. “We have a lot of the national data, but who we were missing were the fans who wanted to see what some of these kids were doing each and every week.”
By affiliating with these sites, ESPN can direct its readers to local stories on those schools’ programs that it couldn’t afford to cover. Most of the sites feature football and men’s basketball coverage, though some have incorporated baseball.
Meanwhile, site owners can use ESPN stories and video and are permitted to cite ESPN’s proprietary polls and recruiting rankings.
At the moment, most sites with ESPN affiliations are dedicated to programs with rabid fan bases, including most SEC schools, Ohio State, Miami, Southern California and Oklahoma. Maryland and Virginia Tech sites are expected to join the network by 2009.
“They want to be able to promote ESPN at the grassroots level, and we want to be able to share our content,” said Lee Schear, the publisher of Ohio State site Bucknuts.com, who has helped organize many of the affiliate sites into a network. “Our stuff goes up to them, their stuff goes down to us.”
ESPN’s partnership with these sites would appear to be a direct hit to one of its main competitors. Several of the sites now affiliated with ESPN were once partners with Scout.com, a network of more than 200 sites affiliated with Fox Interactive Media and Fox Sports. Sites devoted to Ohio State, Florida, Southern California and Oklahoma left Scout.com last year and formed the Team Sports Network, first operating independently and then later approaching ESPN.
Those sites that departed from Scout.com were involved in a class action lawsuit against their former partners, claiming improper accounting of revenue and inadequate technological support. Site operators declined to discuss specifics of the case because a settlement is pending, but some said they moved to ESPN in part because they were offered more independence and shared content.
“We felt we could do some things, multimedia-wise, that Scout couldn’t provide,” said Christopher Stock, a former writer for Scout.com’s Miami Hurricanes site, who now publishes InsidetheU.com, an ESPN affiliate. “We have a lot more creative control now.”
Scout.com executives said they are not concerned about ESPN entering the market, calling it “a validation” of Scout’s position.
“There’s always going to be an ebb and flow,” said Jeff Husvar, general manager of Scout Media. “We take our relationships seriously, so of course when they leave it’s a concern of ours. But we feel really good about our existing partners.”
Husvar declined to address the specifics of the lawsuit but said the company is working on a strategic plan to improve the capabilities and performance of its sites.
About the Author
Tim Lemke has been the sports business reporter for The Washington Times since 2005, writing on a wide variety of issues ranging from the construction of the Washington Nationals new ballpark to steroid hearings on Capitol Hill. He writes a weekly column titled “SportsBiz” and maintains a blog with the same name. Highlights of his career include playing some very ...
- First Down: Best weekend bets
- SportsBiz: What the next decade holds
- Shifting sands for NCAA
- Monumental sports year will connect fans on a global scale
- SportsBiz: Selling a new career
Latest Blog Entries
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
- FCC targets black conservative in TV station fight
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- CARNES: Kissinger's flawed and offensive analysis of Ukraine
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- George Zimmerman signs autographs at Orlando gun show
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again