SBD/Issue 128/Sports Media

Groups Launching Youth Sports Social Networking Site

CAA, Pequot Capital And MLBAM Partnering
On Youth Sports Social Networking Web Site
CAA, hedge fund Pequot Capital (PC) and MLBAM are collaborating on the joint venture WePlay.com, a "social networking site for youth sports" expected to launch in mid-April, according to Tim Arango of the N.Y. TIMES. Parents will be able to "get practice schedules [and] coordinate car pools" on the site, while athletes can set up profiles and communicate with teammates. WePlay CEO Steve Hansen said 240 million people in America are "one degree of separation from youth sports." Hansen: "Youth sports is held together by e-mails, phone calls and clipboards. We want to change that." Arango reports the site will be "mostly advertiser supported, initially in the form of sponsorships integrated in to the site, and later, banner ads." Upper Deck already has signed on as an advertiser and will offer "online trading games for youngsters and access to a digital trading card library." Photos and videos of athletes including Cavaliers F LeBron James, Yankees SS Derek Jeter and Colts QB Peyton Manning as children, as well as "footage from recent shoots, ... will surround the more traditional features of social media." As part of the venture, a camera crew will follow James at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, which he attended, in the coming weeks. CAA came up with the idea for the site, and its agents "liken the venture to the sports version" of FunnyOrDie.com. The investment so far in WePlay is $4.5M, and the "financial backers are already thinking about other niche-oriented social networking sites." PC's Pequot Ventures Managing Dir Rick Heitzmann: "There's no reason to believe that the organizing principles that are applied here to sports can't be applied elsewhere, such as to religious organizations" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/26).

TALKING POINTS: Marlins LF Luis Gonzalez has launched IsTalking LLC, a company that develops new social networking Web sites for college students. The company's flagship site is ASUIsTalking.com, which is exclusively for students who have an Arizona State Univ. e-mail address. The company also has launched ASUAlumniIsTalking.com, which is targeted for graduates of the school (IsTalking).

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