SBD/August 7, 2012/Media

Turner Finalizes Bleacher Report Acquisition, Giving Site Access To Content, Personalities

Turner execs yesterday said that Bleacher Report's content and talent will have regular exposure throughout the Turner Broadcasting TV portfolio -- including CNN and Headline News -- following the company's purchase of the six-year-old online sports destination. As part of the deal announced yesterday, Bleacher Report also will likely gain access to online highlights of Turner Sports content such as the NCAA men's basketball tournament and the NBA. "This is a well-established brand, and we see a big opportunity to enhance our consumer experience and take what Bleacher Report already does well and expand significantly upon it," said Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy. Added Bleacher Report CEO Brian Grey, "The chance to plug into the train they've created and become a meaningful part of a larger portfolio intuitively made a lot of sense and was too much to pass up." Levy said gaining a "52-weeks-a-year platform" through the Bleacher Report acquisition was an important factor, but added recent moves by Turner partners SI, PGA Tour and NASCAR to take more control of their digital properties, did not play a direct role in the latest move. Bleacher Report's brand name, S.F. headquarters and existing staff will all stay intact. But the acquisition does create a series of new executive reporting structures. Grey will add Senior VP/Turner Sports to his title, and will report to Turner Sports COO & Exec VP Lenny Daniels, while working closely with Turner Sports Senior VP & GM of Operations Matt Hong. Bleacher Report Chief Revenue Officer Rich Calacci adds Senior VP/Turner Digital Ad Sales to his title, and will report to Turner Broadcasting Exec VP Walker Jacobs. Levy and Grey declined to directly address the acquisition price, pegged by industry sources at about $175M. But Levy said, "We believe there will be an incredible return on investment in a short period of time. Like all our deals, there is a ROI structure within our company that works" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

MONEY MAKER?
Grey and Levy "would not discuss whether Bleacher Report, which started in 2008, is profitable." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir noted Turner will "use its sportscasters, like Charles Barkley and Cal Ripken, to help Bleacher Report" (NYTIMES.com, 8/6). In San Jose, Owens & Delevett noted Bleacher Report co-Founders -- Dave Finocchio, Bryan Goldberg, Dave Nemetz and Zander Freund -- have “worked to legitimize the site in the past few years, pulling in at least $39 million worth of venture capital and hiring executives from larger, more established properties” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/7).

WIN-WIN: MARKET WATCH's Jon Friedman wrote, “After years of neglecting its sports-journalism franchise, Time Warner is trying to compete against the juggernaut known as ESPN. … ESPN is so far ahead of the sports pack that Time Warner’s acquisition may resemble a pop-gun taking on a bazooka. But at least Time Warner appears to be trying to narrow the gap. Now, if it can devote ample resources to boosting the Sports Illustrated brand, it will have an even stronger presence” (MARKETWATCH.com, 8/6). Levy said that the site will "help Turner offer advertisers more ways to reach a desired demographic." The WALL STREET JOURNAL's John Jannarone cited comScore figures that reported Bleacher Report "had 10.1 million unique visitors in June, up from 7.9 million a year earlier." That places the site "in the top 10 sports sites" (WSJ.com, 7/6). PAID CONTENT’s Jeff John Roberts wrote the news is “a crowning moment for the four high school friends who built the upstart sports site by drawing on legions of rapid fans who offer reams of free content about their favorite teams.” The acquisition for Time Warner will “strengthen sports content of its Turner Networks at a time when consumers continue to show an almost insatiable appetite for sports media” (PAIDCONTENT.org, 8/6). ADWEEK's Charlie Warzel wrote Bleacher Report's "extensive array of fan-centric sports coverage will no doubt flesh out Turner's digital footprint in the sports community after it ceded digital platform control to both the PGA Tour and NASCAR earlier in the year" (ADWEEK.com, 8/6).
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