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SportsLine launches TV show

Convergence between the Net and TV is budding in the active sports space with SportsLine's launch of a cable show.

The growing convergence between the Net and television got a boost in the highly active sports space today, with SportsLine USA announcing the launch of its own cable television show.

The move comes as sports sites--which make up one of the hottest markets on the Net--are revamping and rolling out new products in preparation for the start of football season.

The half-hour pregame analysis show, dubbed Football Playbook, will feature commentary by former National Football League coaches Marv Levy and Sam Wyche and will be hosted by radio personality Scott Kaplan. It will air in nearly 70 markets on Pax TV, a "family friendly" cable network that launched two days ago, SportsLine said.

The idea is to broaden the appeal of SportsLine, which currently runs a co-branded site with CBS, CBS SportsLine, extending from the online medium to the wider world of media, executives said today.

Where networks once marketed their products primarily to couch potatoes dedicated to sitting out the season in front of their television sets, they now have to expand their marketing to cover "mouse potatoes"--people who log on to the Net to get a full menu of sports-related offerings including chat, scores, video and audio clips, and articles.

"The Internet is perfect for the delivery of sports content, just as it is for finance," said Patrick Keane, an analyst with Jupiter Communications.

Not only do organized sports sites cater to one of the most established demographics on the Net--white men--but they also can naturally take advantage of the medium, Keane said.

For instance, sports fans are naturally drawn to up-to-the-second statistics and scores, love to chat, and seem to have an insatiable appetite for information.

They have another trait that appeals to Net companies: they like to buy sports paraphernalia and also are receptive to advertising. The astronomical cost of advertising during the Super Bowl underscores that point.

And unlike television--where networks have to fight only with each other to get exclusive content from the various leagues such as the NFL, the National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball--on the Web, sports franchises also are in on the fight for eyeballs with their own news and information sites. For instance, the NFL today announced that it redesigned its official site and expanded its offerings to include interactive games, video highlights, and programming from ESPN.

ESPN, which also has its own highly popular site, is planning to make an announcement about its Web strategy tomorrow, according to a press announcement by the company.

True to the sports culture, sports sites are ready to supply statistics that demonstrate exactly why they're interested in the Net.

"Nearly half of the 250,000-plus users who visited last season on a Sunday used the site as an online companion to watching NFL games on television," according to the NFL.

SportsLine cited that same statistic today when executives there explained why they are launching a television show.

"We have about 400,000 pages of information," said Ross Levinsohn, vice president of programming for CBS SportsLine and executive producer of the Web site. "There's a lot of ways to use that content. We hope that this show is simply a complement [to the site]."

Plus, he added, "it's a great vehicle to showcase what the Web is all about--and what SportsLine is all about is content."

In other words, SportsLine is singing the same tune as many media companies: with cable, television, print, and Internet increasingly converging, companies are emphasizing content that will hold up across the media, trying to brace for a future when the lines will be blurred.

"We intend to build a major sports brand," said Michael Levy, president and chief executive of SportsLine. And that means that it must run across several media, he said.