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SportsBiz: Redskins, Comcast teaming up online

The Washington Redskins and Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic are best buddies, at least when it comes to bolstering their multimedia operations.

The team and the local sports network have expanded their official media partnership this year, with CSN providing a wealth of video content to Redskins.com and the team helping to direct Web traffic back to the network's site.

It's not an unusual partnership, but visitors to the Redskins' Web site might find the level of collaboration to be unique in the NFL. A visit to Redskins.com will yield videos and stories in a module with content from CSN staffers right next to offerings from the Redskins' media operation.

The team and network are working together on a unique video site called Redskins Powerboard, plus a new fan-focused Web site with blogs and user-created content and a Facebook page featuring stories and content from CSN.

From CSN's point of view, the motivation to partner with the Redskins is simple: more exposure for its content. Redskins officials claim 1 million unique visitors a month during the season, making it the most popular sports-only site in the D.C. area. Meanwhile, unique visitors to CSN's home page, CSNWashington.com, have spiked by nearly 150 percent in the past year, with page views nearly doubling.

"Our goal is to be the premier source of sports news and information, 24/7," said Mark Lapidus, CSN's vice president of digital media. "It's gotten to be an on-demand kind of appetite, so we really need to be there for fans online."

The Redskins, meanwhile, get access to a wide range of content produced by the largest sports newsroom in the region.

"We think Comcast does the most fair and balanced reporting in the market," said Redskins chief marketing officer Mitch Gershman. "And although we're growing as a media company, it's still not our core."

On Redskins.com, the team keeps all revenue from banner ads, but the network collects revenue from short commercials that play before their videos.

Perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of the partnership is Redskins Powerboard, an interactive site featuring video, photos, articles and Twitter feeds. The Powerboard, still in a beta phase, is most appropriate for those with fast internet connections and large displays. During a demonstration of the site on a widescreen television and fast connection at Comcast SportsNet's offices, videos played without a hitch. On a laptop and home connection, the experience was choppier.

There still are limitations to what the Redskins and CSN can do. The NFL controls all footage of game highlights, and live streaming video of games is not allowed.

And these types of partnerships raise questions about whether the news outlet can be objective in its coverage. But team and network officials said there has not been discussion about censoring reporters.

"What I tell our guys is that they can be as critical as they like, but they can't be personal about it," Lapidus said.

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