Time Inc. unveils a digital sports network
It is a sports network catering to the shortened attention spans of the mobile and social media generation: 240 clips, each two minutes long, across eight hours of daily programming.
These rapid-fire clips, along with rotating social media updates, polls and links, are the building blocks of 120 Sports, a new digital network starting Wednesday evening that seeks to stand out in an intensely competitive field of sports programming.
"It can’t just be what television is," said Jason Coyle, president of 120 Sports.
The network is a partnership backed by Time Inc., the publisher of Sports Illustrated, along with numerous professional sports leagues and companies - but not, notably, the National Football League.
For Time Inc., the initiative is a crucial part of the publisher’s strategy to increase revenue after spinning off from media conglomerate Time Warner earlier this month. Print ad revenue is eroding, and the new digital sports network sets up Time Inc. to better compete for the fast-growing online video ad market as well as the $68.5 billion U.S. television ad market.
The network represents the first time that the sports leagues are coming together to create their own media offering - nearly 35 years after ESPN created its pioneering and profitable sports network. In addition to Time Inc., 120 Sports’ equity partners include Major League Baseball Advanced Media; the National Hockey League; Silver Chalice, a digital sports media group started by Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf; and Campus Insiders, a collegiate sports site. The PGA Tour also is expected to be announced Wednesday as an equity partner. The National Basketball Association, NASCAR and several collegiate conferences are also contributing content to the venture.
The fledgling network faces stiff competition. Sports fans already have a vast lineup of options for watching sports coverage both on traditional television and the Web. The category has grown even more crowded in recent years as broadcasters ramped up their sports offerings and the new cable channels NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports 1 entered the arena.
On digital, 120 Sports will battle for attention against the likes of the Web’s most-visited sports site, ESPN, which attracted 68 million unique U.S. visitors on desktop and mobile in May, and the second-ranked Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network, which attracted 56.3 million unique U.S. visitors during the same period, according to measurement firm comScore.