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CNNSI.com enters online ring

Time Warner is launching a sports site on the Web to compete with ESPN SportsZone and CBS SportsLine, creating even more competition for Web sports eyeballs.

Let the online sports games begin.

Time Warner said today that it is launching a sports site on the Web to compete with ESPN SportsZone and CBS SportsLine, creating even more competition for Web sports eyeballs.

The site, dubbed CNNSI.com, will aggregate sports content from CNN, Sports Illustrated, and Turner Sports, serving as a free sports site for CNN Interactive and the Pathfinder Network. The site will generate revenues from advertisements.

CNNSI.com, which launches tomorrow, will feature proprietary content from Sports Illustrated, including 43 years of archived material, as well as scores, news, and sports statistics.

The site will integrate content from all of its affiliated sites, networks, and publications, according to Andy Mitchell, a spokesman for CNNSI.com. "Scores and news will come from CNN; in-depth reports and analysis, Sports Illustrated. Turner will provide their NBA and NFL rights, announcers, and analysts, as well as their partial rights to the winter games in '98 in Nagono, Japan," he said.

A customizable scoreboard will allow users to view the scores of their favorite teams on the CNNSI.com home page, and the navigation bar will let users personalize links for their favorite teams.

Analyst Bill Bass from Forrester Research expects that the strengths of the parent companies will be passed on to CNNSI. "Is it going to be an important competitor? Absolutely--another branded player in the field. These aren't exactly two college kids starting 'Sports.com,'" he said.

CNNSI.com is an extension and companion of CNN/SI television sports network and an example of the much-touted "synergy" that Time Warner and Turner are hoping to achieve through their merger. The site is not only cobranded but also will be fully integrated into both CNN Interactive and Pathfinder.

The Walt Disney Company is implementing a similar strategy now that it has acquired the ABC television network. For example, Disney's online children's product, Daily Blast, features content from the network's biggest assets, ABC News and ESPN. Disney and Time Warner also are trying to leverage their well-known brand names into moneymaking Net ventures.

While seen as cutting-edge, the Web is still generating miniscule revenues compared with mainstream TV, movies, and other entertainment businesses. However, analysts say CNNSI.com to bring in better numbers than its cable television counterpart, which Bass said has been somewhat of a disappointment: "They haven't exactly set the cable world on fire."

Time Warner's announcement comes in the wake of frenzied competition among Internet sports sites. Both ABC and CBS have announced ventures with America Online in the last two months. CBS SportsLine also announced an exclusive online deal recently with basketball star Michael Jordan.

However, credit card numbers were recently taken off the ESPN and the NBA sites, calling into question the security these sites use when handling sensitive financial data. ESPN asserts the sites are secure.