SBJ/December 18 - 24, 2006/This Weeks News

3 NGBs team to look for Web site help

Using the name United Sports Alliance, three powerful national governing bodies have hired a consultant and begun a search for a partner to construct their respective Web sites.

USA Swimming, Track & Field and Gymnastics
want sites with social-networking elements.

USA Swimming, Track & Field and Gymnastics hired attorney Jack Swarbrick of B&D Consulting and put out a request for proposal 90 days ago seeking a partner who can help build each governing body a community Web site that would include elements of social networking, blogging and video.

While it is not uncommon for governing bodies to work together to secure facilities or marketing partners, this type of collaboration around digital media is new and highlights one of the hottest spaces in Olympic sports right now.

Over the last year, a bevy of suitors, including NBC, ABC, Wasserman Media Group, MLB Advanced Media and World Championship Sports Network, have been courting NGBs and international federations in an effort to secure rights to their content. Sensing a possible new stream of revenue, NGBs have responded by scrambling to secure digital rights partners.

The U.S. Olympic Committee entered the fray six months ago, announcing that it wanted to launch an Olympic channel. Since then, the USOC has been visiting NGBs to assess what content would be available for either a digital or traditional Olympic network.

As the USOC has pursued those platforms, Olympic and media sources say it has been unhappy with the efforts of its largest NGBs to secure partners for their digital content. The USOC denied that, saying that if the NGBs are able to increase the profile of their respective sports and increase their revenue, the entire Olympic movement benefits.

“All of this gets to the same goal,” USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said. “It’s about greater awareness for the Olympic movement and potential new revenue streams. However we get there, that’s the goal.”

USA Swimming, Track & Field and Gymnastics want to secure a digital rights partner by the end of January who can develop three independent Web sites, said Swarbrick, the attorney representing them.

Combined, the NGBs have more than 400,000 members. The goal of the sites will be to offer members a place to interact similar to MySpace or Facebook. Streaming video of events and behind-the-scenes looks at athletes will be featured, Swarbrick said.

Swarbrick declined to comment on whom the NGB alliance is speaking with regarding a partnership and said there are no limitations to how that partnership could be structured. The last time the groups united, in 2002, they failed in their effort to secure a broadcast partner for events leading up to Athens 2004.

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