The latest effort between CBS and the NCAA in the first of an 11-year, $6 billion deal encompasses not only broadcast rights but also corporate marketing, licensing and now the Internet. Ncaasports.com, will officially begin operation March 1 and was announced during a news conference Wednesday in New York City.
It’s not the first official site run by SportsLine. It already runs NFL.com and pgatour.com, both officially sanctioned by the respective leagues.
The site will include video highlights, live scoring and audio play-by-play of the TV feed, analysis and other features that may soon include video streaming. While the coverage will begin with the March Madness basketball tournaments, SportsLine CEO Michael Levy said Wednesday that the site would run year-round.
"It will include the sports that people can't watch on television but they have an interest in," Levy said.
Levy and CBS Sports President Sean McManus said that media sales has already begun. Initial sponsors include Cingular, Coca-Cola, Pontiac, Monster.com and Kraft. Levy said the advertisers’ benefit from having their brand available to fans 24 hours a day.
To close the deal, SportsLine agreed to sell two gambling-related units, a Website called vegasinsider.com and a information provider called Las Vegas Sports Consultants. The sales haven’t been completed yet. Levy said he believed advertising sales would more than make up for the lost revenue from the gaming operations.
CBS and the NCAA expressed relief that the units would be sold. NCAA President Myles Brand said it helped reinforce the organization's stand against sports wagering. Brand said the NCAA wouldn't have made the deal with SportsLine without the divestiture.
SportsLine had 2002 revenues of $62.1 million, the majority being from advertising on CBSSportsLine.com, NFL.com and PGATour.com. Some $11 million came from the online fantasy sports leagues, especially football.
McManus said marketers had been pleased by the CBS-NCAA deal’s ability to marry broadcasts and corporate partnerships.
“The other part that they’ve been asking about is the Internet,” he said.
SportsLine has its own sales force but works jointly with CBS, and McManus said recent CBS presentations have included a representative from SportsLine.
McManus said it’s possible the site would include streaming video from the games airing on CBS.
“It’s something we have to work out with our affiliates … It would be a small audience out there but we’re very cognizant that our number-one priority is driving people to CBS Sports,” he said.
“It’s hard to imagine someone just watching the streaming video on the Internet and not watching CBS,” McManus added.