SBD/June 25, 2014/Media

New Digital Network 120 Sports Takes Aim At Millenials With Short Videos

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Chicago-based digital network 120 Sports is set to go live today and “aims to be an online reinvention" of "SportsCenter" by providing a steady stream of video highlights for “multitaskers with mobile devices and short attention spans,” according to Robert Channick of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Equity partners Time Inc. and Silver Chalice have “teamed with MLB.com and the NHL and NBA to deliver video-driven sports reports with social interaction and related factoids in two-minute segments.” The net will “stream live” from 5:00pm-1:00am CT Monday through Saturday and 3:00-11:00pm on Sunday. 120 Sports execs said that a morning show also is “in the works.” During downtimes, the net will “offer video on demand.” The live schedule puts it up “against prime-time TV.” But Silver Chalice COO and 120 Sports President Jason Coyle said that it is “more complementary than competitive, 120 Sports steering users to play-by-play action on other networks." The “ad-supported network will feature six one-minute commercial breaks every hour on the fours during live programming.” National ad sales are being handled by Silver Chalice and SI. Part of the appeal is “undoubtedly the hard-to-reach millennial target audience" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/25). Coyle said the goal is to be “the nation’s water cooler.” In Chicago, Sandra Guy notes 120 Sports employs 130 people “working in roles much like a TV station." But in this case, they work in “real time with colleagues who stream data, scores, social media and other information to complement the video” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/25).

FAN FARE: In N.Y., Emily Steel writes Time Inc.’s involvement is a “crucial part of the publisher’s strategy to increase revenue" after spinning off from Time Warner earlier this month. The PGA Tour today is expected to be announced as another 120 sports “equity partner," and NASCAR and several college conferences also are “contributing content.” Perhaps the “biggest drawback in attracting fans is that the NFL is not participating in the venture, meaning it will not be able to broadcast any highlights from pro football games.” However, it will “cover news about the games, its players and events” like the NFL Draft (N.Y. TIMES, 6/25). 

UPHILL CLIMB: SPORTS ON EARTH’s Matt Brown writes Monday’s live demo of 120 Sports “showed off a sleek design, which allows users to watch the live feed but also navigate from topic to topic, seeing what’s coming up next, as well as being given the option to navigate to all the night’s previous segments.” Users can “add topics as favorites” and “receive push notifications whenever there’s new content.” When watching videos or the live feed, “clickable data cards appear on the bottom of the screen with related information, including popular tweets, basic facts, links to articles from partner sites like SI.com and more.” It is meant to be an “interactive live experience, with focused discussion and a wide variety of resources to stay on top of everything that’s happening around the world of sports.” There are a lot of resources devoted to 120 Sports, but even a good product “won’t necessarily translate to instant success.” FS1 was “much hyped when it launched last summer as an alternative to ESPN, but so far it has struggled to regularly inject itself into the sports conversation.” 120 Sports has to try to “carve out an audience as a new kind of sports consumption experience.” It also has to find ways to “attract viewers over all the other options that are already out there” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 6/25). 

GETTING TO THE CORE: Time Inc. Exec VP Todd Larsen said investments like 120 Sports are a "core part" of the company's strategy. Coyle said that 120 Sports is also an “effort by some of the major sports leagues to create a digital sports-media entity of their own.” AD AGE’s Michael Sebastian writes 120 Sports also will help “drive viewers to league and individual team websites” (ADAGE.com, 6/25).
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