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SportsLine targets global audience

CBS SportsLine rolls out expanded coverage of soccer, cricket, and golf, in a two-pronged strategy for growing brand recognition overseas.

SportsLine USA (SPLN) has substantially expanded its coverage of soccer, cricket, and golf, in a two-pronged strategy for growing brand recognition overseas.

Its new site, SportsLine WorldWide, incorporates content from three leading "standalone" sites: Soccernet, CricInfo, and GolfWeb, a site SportsLine acquired for $14.8 million in stock about one month ago. Simultaneously, SportsLine content became available via leading online newspapers in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Brazil.

SportsLine's content will be available on the sites of its international partners in several languages, under the heading "U.S. Sports."

Over the past decade, the expansion of satellite broadcasting, email, and newsgroup usage has dramatically increased the domestic availability of information about international soccer and other sports, not to mention news of famous clubs such as Bayern Munich or Santos. Professional Web reportage has followed more slowly, but often enjoys an active following among expatriate communities as well as American enthusiasts.

In bringing extensive soccer and cricket coverage to a U.S.-based Web site for the first time, SportsLine has elected to partner with these established online reporting services rather than build up staff itself. Competitors ESPN SportsZone, CNN/SI, and the Sporting News generally cover international events through wire services, though soccer has been receiving more and more attention.

SportsLine WorldWide aims to create brand awareness overseas while also appealing to the large expatriate market in the United States, according to a company spokesman. "This taps a common interest in sports while also tapping [expatriate] populations here in the U.S. The other side of that is for Brazilians who don't know about SportsLine to see it through [Brazilian newspaper] O Estado de Sao Paulo," the spokesman said.

In bringing on well-established sites, however, SportsLine must maintain a unified look and feel while showing respect for the long-running Web pages. CricInfo, for instance, began as an enthusiast's page and currently looks nothing like any of the other SportsLine products.

"We'll try to maintain heritage but add consistency in terms of navigation," said Kenneth Dotson, vice president of marketing for SportsLine. "[But] we don't want to do things that would disrupt their heritage. Things of appeal to folks in one country are not necessarily of appeal to folks in another."

Dotson declined to comment on future plans for expansion, other than noting team sports are good candidates. "Team sports seem to have more passionate following internationally--any major sport that has international following" is of interest, he said.