SBJ/August 16 - 22, 2004/This Weeks Issue

AOL Sports fights for spot in fantasy lineup with free, pay offerings

AOL Sports this fall is taking a place in the increasingly crowded market for fantasy sports services with a full slate of free and pay products for both AOL members and nonmembers.

AOL Sports is trying to introduce fantasy beyond “a ‘SportsCenter’ crowd.”
The new products will be provided through a multiyear partnership with fantasy service provider fanball.com. They are expected to be available on a separate portal, Fantasy Sports@AOL, that is scheduled to launch this week.

The free offerings include weekly pro and college “Pick ’em” contests, a salary-cap game in which participants bid on players via an online auction and compete in a league against other participants based on player statistics, and a similar league where players are selected via an online draft.

AOL also is introducing a more advanced league-manager service. For $59.99, participants can form a league through a draft and customize the rules.

Outside of Yahoo! Sports, which offers all its games for free, most other leading fantasy providers charge more than $100 for customizable league-manager games.

Carlos Silva, AOL senior vice president of news and sports, said Fantasy Sports@AOL helps complement AOL’s ever-expanding sports content while introducing fantasy products to a mainstream audience that he said more-seasoned fantasy providers do not reach.

“There’s sort of a ‘SportsCenter’ crowd and everybody else that likes sports,” Silva said. “We think it’s the right time for us to get in in a big way.”

AOL’s fantasy offerings will include games for all major professional and college sports. AOL Sports has offered a few free fantasy products, but this marks the first time the site is offering a full slate of products covering all the major sports, as well as pay games.

AOL nonmembers must sign up for free to AOL Instant Messenger to participate.

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