SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/This Weeks Issue

Ignite whittles staff, adds NFL clients

Ignite Sports Media laid off roughly one-quarter of its 100-person staff last Wednesday, making it one of the last large sports-Web publishers to respond to the tough Internet economy.

The cuts affected all departments of the company, reaching as high as vice presidents, according to Hank Adams, Ignite CEO. The company has nearly 20 clients, including sports teams, leagues and media companies, but the cuts do not affect any Ignite employees working in-house at those clients, Adams said.

The company had been considering cuts for a few months, both because of the tight online advertising marketplace and because the company has reached a point where its publishing technology requires fewer hands.

Adams said the company is targeting clients outside pro sports teams and major governing bodies, including universities, radio stations, print publications and smaller governing bodies. He said this reflects several industry realities: that rights-fee deals with teams are a thing of the past and that developers must have fee-based deals to survive, but those deals must be economical for the clients. Fewer than half of Ignite's partners are fee-paying, Adams said.

The company existed on $5 million in private funding for its first two years and received an additional $17 million early this year. Adams said the cuts, which will mean a seven-figure yearly savings, keep the company in line to become profitable late next year.

"We're a very frugal shop, and this was driven by the marketplace," he said. "We have money."

Separately, Ignite has signed deals with two more NFL teams to represent their sites to the ad community on a commission basis. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders join the Philadelphia Eagles as Ignite-represented teams. Ignite does not develop those teams' sites. Ignite handles site-development and sales duties for 10 other NFL teams and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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