SBJ/July 28-Aug. 3, 2014/Media

Fox Sports, Sporting News Media teaming up

Fox Sports Digital and Sporting News Media have struck a multiyear digital partnership that will create one of the most highly trafficked sports media entities in the industry.

The two companies will collaborate on an array of sales and content initiatives. News, features and video content from each entity will appear on the other’s properties, and the two will jointly sell into a bundle of assets that includes FoxSports.com, Yardbarker, SportingNews.com, Goal.com, and Sporting News Media’s widely syndicated ePlayer video service.

News, features and video from each entity will appear on the other’s properties.

The deal also arrives as Fox Sports Digital is ending its exclusive relationship with Microsoft’s MSN portal after more than a decade. Fox and MSN will continue to work together on some online traffic referral but on a much smaller and nonexclusive level.

Financial terms for the Fox Sports Digital-Sporting News Media alliance were not disclosed.

The combined entities are projected to generate more than 65 million unique visitors a month in comScore monthly multiplatform rankings of U.S. digital sports media, a total that generally would trail only traditional category leader ESPN. The new, joint listing, to read “Fox Sports Digital - Sporting News Media,” will begin appearing in the comScore report as early as September. During the most recent comScore rankings, FoxSports.com on MSN ranked fourth, with a total of 44.3 million uniques, and Sporting News Media was seventh, with 28.9 million.

Merging traffic

The Fox Sports Digital-Sporting News Media agreement continues a period of consolidation for the digital sports media industry, as many of the major players continue to look to amass as much scale as possible. Among the deals:

 
August 2012: Turner Sports buys Bleacher Report to gain a widely trafficked, year-round consumer destination. 

■ December 2012: Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports join forces to create an entity that typically has been no worse than No. 2 in reach in the industry. They expanded the deal for the Sochi Olympics earlier this year.

 March 2013: Perform Sports strikes a deal with Sporting News owner American City Business Journals to create Sporting News Media. ACBJ is the parent company of SportsBusiness Journal. 

Source: SportsBusiness Journal

“This is a situation where we think we’ll both be able to play to our strengths and create something together that is really powerful and has really extensive reach,” said Juan Delgado, Sporting News Media chief executive.

For Fox Sports, a driving motivation in the pact was to deepen its reach in high-demand video programming. Video has been a core part of Fox’s digital strategy over the past year as it relaunched FoxSports.com and created Fox Sports Go, the network’s authenticated digital video platform. This new deal gives Fox Sports access to ePlayer, in turn increasing its amount of video programming far quicker than anything that the network could do itself organically, as well as the much higher advertising rates that arrive with it compared with most forms of digital display advertising.

“Video [advertising] still has inventory constraints. There are still more people who want to buy into quality video than what exists out there,” said Pete Vlastelica, Fox Sports executive vice president of digital. “That situation doesn’t exist with display.”

Both sides said they did not have concerns about potential audience confusion with the alliance of two consumer-facing sports media brands. Internal Sporting News Media metrics suggest there is as little as 7 percent audience duplication between the two brands.

“We’re looking to be very thoughtful about how we build audience, and we see a situation where these brands are very compatible,” Vlastelica said. “And this is so much more than just a traffic exchange or a comScore deal. This is a really deep partnership that is going to change what we can provide to the user and to the advertiser.”

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