The Old College Try: Cable Net Scores Collegiate Sports Portal, Consolidates Field
CSTV will pay $7 million for the Official College Sports Network, including $2.85 million in cash and the rest in assumption of debt. The online service's current owner is Student Advantage Inc., a publicly traded company that markets discount cards for college students at more than 15,000 locations worldwide under the name The Student Advantage Discount Card. Official College Sports Network is only part of the company, which had revenues of $4.74 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30 and a deficit of more than $128 million.
For CSTV, it opens up a second front in its strategy to be a top player in collegiate sports news and information. The Official College Sports Network owns CollegeSports.com, which Nielsen//Net Ratings calls the top Web site devoted to intercollegiate athletics. The seven-year-old unit also builds and maintains sites for more than 135 college athletic departments, conferences and athletic associations, including more than half of NCAA Division I-A schools like Ohio State University, Notre Dame and Florida State University. It has more than 325 advertisers, including American Express, EA Sports, Forbes and Microsoft.
Brian Bedol, president and chief executive officer of CSTV, said the acquisition gives the cable TV channel "a single, strong entity" across television and the Internet. He said that CSTV and its new online property was getting in near the ground floor of a transition in the distribution of sports to consumers, from vertical means like league-owned networks and channels designated for single sports to multiple platforms.
"With this marriage [between CSTV and Official College Sports Network], we will have the opportunity to reach new schools and new sponsors," Bedol said Wednesday afternoon.
That digital future Bedol referred to is being hastened by the nation's move to broadband. Official College Sports Network, in a deal with Real Networks, already provides live coverage of some games that President Jeff Cravens said didn't have enough room on the television dial for them.
While CSTV was short on specifics, it said that the future was virtually unlimited with a broadband platform.
"I think you will see us, over the next couple of months, begin to test some of that content delivery. I think that, especially in partnership with some of the major cable companies and satellite providers that have broadband service, they are anxious to see us provide some compelling sports content on there that helps add value to what we're doing in broadband," Bedol said. "I think you'll see it soon."
In the TV world, CSTV has been making strides on both satellite and cable. It's available to 15 million homes on Adelphia, Insight and other cable systems and DirecTV.