SBJ/Dec. 6-12, 2010/This Week's Issue

Paper’s Longhorns site joins 247Sports network

Digital media startup 247Sports.com has struck a partnership with the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman newspaper designed to create a multiplatform destination for coverage of University of Texas sports.

With the deal, the American-Statesman’s existing Texas Longhorns fan site, HookEm.com, will receive a substantial repurposing and become part of the 247Sports.com network of team affinity sites. Recruiting lists and other proprietary content from 247Sports.com will appear on the new HookEm.com and in the newspaper. The two entities will sell advertising against the venture as well as subscriptions to premium-level Longhorns content, which will be available through both HookEm.com and 247Sports.com.

247Sports.com sees this newspaper-partnership model as a key driver for growth and is nearing several similar pacts in both pro and college team markets, with at least one other deal expected by the end of the month.

“We see this as an effective way to combine the assets of what each party does as well as anybody,” said Bobby Burton, 247Sports.com president. “They have incredible newsgathering abilities, and our expertise in recruiting and the fan-affinity business is powerful, too. We’re creating a new type of product that nobody out there has had.”

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal is based on sharing of the advertising and subscription revenue. Content subscriptions begin at $9.95 a month.

“As well as we’ve done covering Texas, and most of our readers are happy with our coverage, there is definitely a market for recruiting coverage, and the 247 guys basically invented the category [while at Rivals.com],” said Michael Vivio, publisher of the Cox Enterprises Inc.-owned American-Statesman. “We’re also eager to see this partnership help advance our paid-content initiatives online.”

Burton and Shannon Terry teamed roughly a decade ago to create Rivals.com, which Yahoo! acquired in 2007 for $98 million. The two executives then left the company last year and launched 247Sports.com earlier this year.

247Sports.com recorded more than 400,000 unique visitors in November, according to internal analytics, just its fourth month of formal operation. Nov. 29 marked an all-time high for a single day for the company, with 96,500 unique visitors.

“We’re now getting ourselves in a position to really have the next generation of fan sites,” Terry said. “The pieces are definitely coming together.”

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