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CBS wants stake in online sports

Mindful (and jealous?) of the success of ESPNet SportsZone, CBS negotiates for a piece of the action in SportsLine USA.

CBS is negotiating for a stake in SportsLine USA, the online sports information site said today.

"We don't have any deal to talk about yet," Michael Levy, SportsLine founder and chief executive said. "We are in serious discussions."

Levy would not reveal the details or specify when a deal would be announced. But he did describe it is as "the first major media deal" for the company. The deal could be announced as early as next week, according to the Associated Press.

SportsLine, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, launched on the Net in August of 1995. The company employs 160 people and was founded in 1994. For $39.95 a year or $4.95 a month SportsLine offers emailed stories and other special content, but the most of the services are free on the Web. They include college and professional sports news, statistics, and celebrity athlete chats.

SportsLine competes with services like ESPNet SportsZone, which launched in April of 1995. Both products exemplify broadcasting's leap onto the Web.

ESPNet SportsZone is the major provider of sports information for the Microsoft Network and is developed by Starwave, which is owned by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen (Paul Allen is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network). ESPN is a subsidiary of Disney's Capital Cities-ABC, with the Hearst Corporation holding a 20 percent share.

An investment by a broadcast company like CBS could push SportsLine into the big time. Levy says SportsLine already gives ESPNet SportsZone a run for its money.

"We're the two main players in the business. Our company is 100 percent focused on sports," he said today.

Venture capital investors have so far put about $32 million into SportsLine USA, according to AP.