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FoxSports, SportingNews team online

In a marriage of online convenience, the Web sports news rivals agree to merge operations while preserving separate brands offline.

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In a marriage of online convenience, Web sports news rivals FoxSports.com and SportingNews.com have agreed to merge operations while preserving separate brands offline.

Under the deal, FoxSports, the online arm of News Corp.'s Fox Sports Networks, will host a co-branded Web site with SportingNews, the Web counterpart of the oldest U.S. sports magazine. The two companies will promote the jointly produced site online and in their respective traditional media properties, including television, print and radio. They also will sell advertising packages across both media properties. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"This is a way to put two robust sport sites into one offering," said Ross Levinsohn, senior vice president of Fox Sports Interactive Media.

The deal comes one month after FoxSports severed its 18-month relationship with Web portal Lycos, which sold ads and hosted the Web site. FoxSports ended the deal to retain greater control over its property, and Levinsohn said the SportingNews parternship reinforces that.

The companies said the site will morph in the coming weeks to integrate both assets, including general sports information, news and scores. Beginning immediately, the site will offer professional football fantasy games and subscriptions. Fox Sports Interactive Media will run the site, and its ad sales force will have primary responsibility for selling advertising across both sites, with online ad revenue to be shared by both parties.

The deal will thrust the combined sites into one of the biggest outlets for sports news. In June, FoxSports drew an audience of 1.8 million people, and SportingNews had nearly 1.2 million, according to research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

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