SBJ/20100816/This Week's News

Rivals.com founders launching new site

The founding executives of Rivals.com, Shannon Terry and Bobby Burton, are returning to digital sports media with the creation of 247Sports.com, an independent entity that will seek to blend local and team-based affinity sites with social media and mobile technology.

There are some key similarities between Rivals.com, now a Yahoo!-owned market leader in college sports and recruiting content, and 247Sports.com. The new site, like Rivals.com, is launching with a focus on college sports, with more than 30 individual sites devoted to specific programs. Also similarly, 247Sports.com will operate with a mix of ad-supported and subscription-based content.

But 247Sports.com intends to take its operational model to pro sports as well, beginning this fall. And unlike the Rivals network, which leaned primarily on affiliate relationships, 247Sports.com is focusing more on an owned-and-operated model. Plans call for hiring experienced, known talent in local communities — in many cases, veteran newspaper writers — and using that talent to start sites from scratch.

Yahoo! bought Rivals.com in 2007 for $98 million. Chief executive Terry and COO Burton left the company last year. Since then, the two have quietly waited out various non-compete and non-solicitation clauses.

The creation of 247Sports.com brings Terry back to his primary love of developing startup companies. In the late 1990s, he founded and ran Rivals.com forerunner AllianceSports. 247Sports.com is being launched with about 30 employees and with $6 million in startup funds — all from company executives, with Terry providing the largest individual piece. Terry serves as CEO; Burton is president.

“This is about creating something that as a fan I would want to consume myself,” Terry said. “This is not a re-creation of Rivals. Instead, this is a very different editorial and technology platform, and an evolution of where I believe the industry should be going.”

A gradual rollout will begin this week, with message boards for several major college football programs that integrate directly with social media channels. A full battery of team sites, a recruiting database and news feeds are slated for release by November.

The planned mobile elements include availability for consumers via wireless applications and, internally, programs that will allow for quicker and easier publishing by the site operators at any place or time.

Among the individual properties aligning with 247Sports.com are Bucknuts.com, which covers Ohio State, and OUInsider.com, which covers Oklahoma.

247Sports.com is operating out of the same Brentwood, Tenn., office park where Rivals is headquartered. Terry acknowledged odd feelings of being so near and now competing with his prior creation.

“I guess we’re competitors now,” he said, “but what we’re doing now is very different, and I want to take the next step.”

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