Looking to grow beyond its print and radio footprint and expand its revenue base,
The Sporting News
is aggressively pushing text-based, interactive sports programming services to digital cable operators.
Though the company currently offers an interactive sports scores and headlines service, it hopes to roll out several premium services later this year, said TSN vice president of ITV and emerging technologies Vlad Edelman.
The Sporting News
— owned by Vulcan Inc., Paul Allen's investment company — is seeking to generate incremental revenue from sources other than its magazine and Sporting News Radio network. Rather than focus on video-based services, Edelman said, the company believes there's a market for a text-based service for avid sports fans who want the most up-to-date information on teams and players.
TSN is eyeing a late-summer launch for services such as Sporting News FantasySource, targeted to the millions of fantasy game players, and Sporting News GameMaster, for sports gaming enthusiasts. Those packages could be priced anywhere from $3 to $12 a month, Edelman said.
Other interactive products, such as event games built around the Super Bowl or the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament, could be priced much lower. Operators would share an undefined percentage of each buy with TSN.
"The ability to generate incremental revenue through very low cost product makes this a very interesting [proposition] for operators," Edelman said.
Although such information is readily available on the Internet, Edelman feels that viewers will be receptive to accessing statistics through the television—particularly while they're watching a sporting event. The service would also provide operators with a differentiated interactive service to sell to consumers, he said.
"When you're looking at a finite universe of incremental revenue, you have to differentiate product away from video," Edelman said. "The video pie will get smaller and smaller as people continue to run out of money for the same service."
1m sub base
The company's basic Sporting
News Insider service is currently is available to 1 million homes via sister company Charter Communications's Digeo I-Channels interactive platform and via WorldGate Communications Inc.
One executive from a midsized MSO remains unconvinced consumers will accept text-based interactive services.
"With interactive services, the consumer wants to be able to get something that they can't get anywhere else," said the operator. "They can get that type of sports information from the Internet."
Nevertheless, Edelman said TSN is in "final contract terms with a number of large operators, including Charter," for the premium service, but would not reveal specific names.