SBJ/20100607/This Week's News

Big Lead represents big jump in FSV strategy

Fantasy Sports Ventures, fresh off its purchase last week of sports blog The Big Lead, is expanding its mission to go beyond simply aggregating fantasy sports news and content.

Three-year-old FSV had already begun to veer away from its original business model of rolling up a network of fantasy-oriented websites against which to sell advertising, having acquired more-traditional destinations such as HoopsHype.com and the battery of sites operated by Sports-Reference.com. The Big Lead purchase, however, marks a significant step toward becoming the largest digital sports media entity not controlled by a league, network or major corporation.

FSV already owns that title in terms of Web traffic, garnering 16.1 million unique users in April, according to comScore, fifth among sports sites. Company officials are now seeking to provide a broader swath of content and are taking aim at the sports online traffic leader, Yahoo!, which drew 34 million users in April.

The site has up to 1M unique users a month.

“Fantasy was very important in the beginning, and it definitely remains a key part of what we’re doing, but to take the next step, it’s important we broaden our focus,” said Chris Russo, FSV chief executive.

Beyond the purchase of The Big Lead, a deal pegged by industry sources in the low seven figures, FSV in recent weeks has penned affiliation deals with sports media site Fang’s Bites, golf destination Wei Under Par and Amanda Rykoff’s OCDChick.com.

FSV now has more than 600 sites in its network. The Big Lead joins The Huddle, KFFL, HoopsHype and the Sports-Reference sites as entities in which FSV has equity.

For sports bloggers, FSV’s purchase of The Big Lead marks another victory, after the acquisitions of Pro Football Talk by NBC and TrueHoop.com by ESPN. The Big Lead editor Jason McIntyre started the site four years ago, and it quickly garnered audience and industry attention for its irreverent but informed mix of sports news, commentary and humor.

The Big Lead generates between 500,000 and 1 million unique users a month.

“I definitely want to be a big part of what FSV is doing,” said McIntyre, who will remain as editor and general manager of The Big Lead. “The thought of selling definitely came after [Pro Football Talk] and TrueHoop happened, but I didn’t want to overthink it and overvalue myself, so I kept working hard and held out for the best deal, and, for me, that was definitely FSV.”

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