SBJ/September 1 - 7, 2003/E Sports

New Media Networks targets football powers

New Media Networks, an Omaha, Neb.-based provider of Internet services, is making strides in its plan to secure agreements with top college athletic programs to source their official athletic department Web sites.

Since last fall, the company has launched new official Web sites for six departments: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Colorado and Oregon. The goal for now is to target only schools with top football programs, said Craig Petersen, the company's general manager.

New Media Networks is in preliminary discussions with several other Big Six conference schools and will likely make its first official solicitation for other schools during basketball tournament time, Petersen said. So far, the company's business has been generated through word-of-mouth, he said.

New Media Networks charges a one-time start-up fee of $20,000 to $35,000. The fee is matched by a guarantee from sales of premium services, such as video streaming. All other revenue, generated from areas such as merchandise sales or sales of Web banners, is kept by the department.

"There's no hit on the athletic department's budget line," Petersen said. "It might cost $20,000 up front, but we'll guarantee that."

New Media Networks offers athletic departments an array of services such as streaming video, video on demand, online stores and online fund raising. All of the company's technology was developed in-house, so it doesn't have to contract with another company, such as Yahoo! or RealNetworks, for streaming technology, Petersen said.

Under its agreements, New Media Networks sets up the sites, trains athletic department officials to use the technology and provides support services when needed.

New Media Networks' planned presence in the college marketplace means competition for the Official College Sports Network, which has dominated the market since 2001, when Total Sports folded. Five schools — Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Colorado and Oregon — have switched from OCSN to New Media Networks.

"They just offered us a new and better way of doing things," said Ben Boyle, assistant athletic director for Kansas State. "Our old site was just a basic Web site with press releases and some team information. Now we can put all sorts of video on it and offer fans premium video and audio content."

OCSN President Jeff Cravens said he isn't worried about the competition. OCSN has agreements with 145 schools (see OCSN adds 16 schools to network).

"We feel comfortable that we have a much better understanding of the marketplace than anybody in the space," Cravens said. "But obviously we are paying attention to what anybody else is doing."

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