SBJ/January 16 - 22, 2006/Media

ESPN keeps Scouts Inc. on its team through acquisition

Seeking additional content for its many media platforms, ESPN has purchased Scouts Inc., a Boston sports scouting information company, for around $18 million.

The 10-year-old company, known until recently as Football Scouts Inc., is changing its name to underscore a new direction of providing comprehensive information in other sports. It has provided analysis on the NFL and high school and college football to ESPN’s television networks, magazines and Web sites for three years, and ESPN’s production group has used the information to prepare for all the network’s football programming. The longtime arrangement grew into an exclusive agreement, but with other broadcast entities pursuing the company, ESPN made what one source called “a pre-emptive bid.”

Scouts Inc. will now delve into other sports, starting with basketball. It also will tap into the demand for in-depth recruiting information that has been evident since the early days of the Internet, and follows other deals in the recruiting and scouting space, joining Fox’s purchase of Scout Media and Rivals.com’s recent distribution deal with AOL.

“There’s a big opportunity in premium content and in advertising across a variety of sports,” said David Geaslen, director of operations for Scouts Inc.

Founded a decade ago by scouting veteran Gary Horton, Scouts Inc. provides information far beyond that provided by the usual ex-jock turned TV personality. Since its information is provided by people who once scouted or evaluated athletic talent, the content is similar to information that coaches and GMs receive.

“They bring insights to the table fans just can’t get enough of,” said ESPN.com executive editor Patrick Stiegman. “It’s definitely information for a hard-core audience, but increasingly, that’s who the audience of ESPN.com is.”

Scouts’ investor/owners include ex-NHL COO Steve Solomon, former SFX executive and Marquis Jet co-founder Jesse Itzler and Nantucket Nectars founder Tom First.

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