SBJ/September 4 - 10, 2006/This Weeks News

NFL teams, others will use screensaver

MercurySports signed the Steelers and 11 other
NFL teams to use the ScreenServer.
The deal with SI.com calls for the rollout of a toolbar
that sits just above the Windows toolbar.
MercurySports, a Tennessee-based startup specializing in content-based desktop computer applications, has signed distribution deals with SI.com, the NHL, Golf Magazine and a dozen NFL teams, dramatically increasing its exposure.

The company will provide each property with its ScreenServer product, a high-end screensaver that pushes content such as photos, scores, statistics and news updates to a user’s computer.

In addition, many of the agreements, most notably the relationship with SI.com for the mySI initiative, call for the rollout of a toolbar that sits just above the Windows toolbar at the bottom of the computer screen and acts as a customizable ticker.

The deals arrive as MercurySports seeks to establish a niche in desktop applications, seen as one of the last open opportunities to distribute sports content.

“This is completely additive to everything else out there and goes right to a space where fans obviously spend a lot of time,” said Joseph Moore, Mercury-Sports vice president of marketing. “And this is all about connecting with fan affinities, which are obviously a bedrock of the business.”

The applications are free to fans, with the venture supported by an advertising model. The screensavers and toolbars both carry ads, typically from the same sponsors that support the featured sports property in order to avoid category conflicts. The revenue is then shared by MercurySports and the property.

The software works only for Windows-based computers, but Mac versions of the applications are in development.

MercurySports worked with seven NFL teams last year — Cleveland, Dallas, Green Bay, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Seattle and Tennessee — in essentially a beta mode to test the technology and gauge consumer acceptance. With those trials having gone well, each of those clubs has re-signed with Mercury. Newly signed teams are Cincinnati, Minnesota, Oakland, Pittsburgh and the New York Giants.

The software is being distributed as downloads from many of the team Web sites and mercurysportsnetwork.com. SI also included a Nissan-branded disk with the software in 750,000 copies of last week’s NFL preview edition of the magazine.

“Having the opportunity to occupy and own another piece of real estate out there is very attractive to us,” said Jeff Price, president of SI Digital. “‘Push technology’ is a space where we definitely want to be involved.”

MercurySports is a division of Tallent Communications, an interactive marketing/graphic design firm. Aiding in MercurySports’ dealmaking was Convergence Sports & Media, run by Tom Richardson, formerly president of NHL Interactive CyberEnterprises and vice president and general manager of AOL Sports.

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