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Fans get free ticket to fantasy sports at SportsLine

The online sporting news and commerce site says it will drop pay-to-play fees for its fantasy sports league services, marking a significant strategy shift.

Online sporting news and commerce site has said it will drop pay-to-play fees for its fantasy sports league services, marking a significant strategy shift.

The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company said yesterday that it will generate revenues through increased database marketing sponsorships rather than subscriptions, which had previously run from $19.95 a year for individuals to $99.95 a year for groups.

"In a free world we feel we can better leverage those types of opportunities, and they are very significant from a revenue perspective," said Peter Pezaris, vice president of fantasy products for SportsLine.

Many online content companies have opted to forgo fees for services in a bid to boost traffic and drive advertising sales. The strategy has been only partly voluntary, however, as online audiences have proven notoriously cheap. Only a handful of sites have successfully signed significant numbers of subscribers on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Analysts say SportsLine's strategic free offering is a way to attract more viewers to its site. Once the company, which is partly owned by CBS, has targeted customers, it will be able to offer them content other than sports.

"It's really a great idea in terms of getting a more loyal and more segmented and defined customer base," said Ed Lopez, media and entertainment analyst for Cyber Dialogue. "And they'll be able to appeal to certain other advertisers."

Through SportsLine's subsidiary, the free fantasy products will be offered on the flagship CBS site beginning with the launch of a series of fantasy football programs and games.

"People who do fantasy sports by nature are committed to the sport and to specific teams, so what you have is a very good marketing tool or marketing segment," Lopez said. But "it's very difficult once you offer a product for free to go and tell your customer base (that) now you're going to charge for it."