Net sports sites face post-season

Sports Web sites come alive during events such as the Super Bowl, but it remains to be seen if they can survive the quieter times.

3 min read
Sports Web sites come alive during events such as the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, but it remains to be seen if they can survive the quieter times.

Sites devoted to the Super Bowl and Olympics have cropped up in droves during the past few months, as everyone from sports media firms to marketing companies hope to attract Web surfers and sell event-related merchandise.

In addition to the official Super Bowl and Olympics sites, sports publishers such as ESPN, CNNSI, and CBS have devoted space to the events.

Dozens of smaller sites also have developed, selling everything from NFL paraphernalia to tickets to the events. SanDiegoInsider.com, for instance, offers behind-the-scenes information about the game, as well as a forum for fans to make predictions or hook up with others interested in the game.

As Internet publishing goes, sites that offer information about specific events or topics tend to do better than general interest or entertainment topics, said Jill Frankle, a senior analyst at International Data Corporation.

"Sporting events sites can become these informational type sites," Frankle said, adding that "with the ability to leverage that into developing communities and perhaps tapping into electronic commerce, there are opportunities there."

The question remains, however, whether the traffic generated by these events will sustain itself during slower periods of the various sports seasons--similar to the lull experienced by some of the politically oriented sites in-between elections. And if the traffic does not stick around during less-hyped parts of the seasons, it remains to be seen if the sports sites will be able to survive with the revenue they generate during the Super Bowl and other attractions.

But the Internet and high-profile sports events do appear to be melding. This year, Auto-By-Tel said it would spend millions of dollars once again to purchase a highly coveted advertising slot during the Super Bowl. The online car dealership made headlines last year when it was the first Internet commerce site to buy an ad for the event.

Jose Cuervo also said it would use the Net prominently to conduct its "Call Jose Cuervo at Half-Time" promotional event scheduled for the day of the Super Bowl.

One site devoted to the Olympics is published by the Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, a local newspaper in Nagano, Japan, where the Winter Games will be held this year. The site provides specialized information in English and Japanese, such as how much snow is on the ground in Nagano and how to get to the games.

Similarly, Web broadcaster AudioNet will provide coverage of the Super Bowl in five languages--but because of competition from traditional broadcasters in the United States, English coverage will be limited to press box feeds and the public address system announcements.

This will be the third Super Bowl the Webcaster has carried, and Kevin Parke, vice president of operations at AudioNet, said it is by no means the last.

"More and more people are online and seeking the kind of comprehensive coverage we bring to the Super Bowl," he said, noting that in addition to bringing coverage of the game, AudioNet will provide pre- and post-game interviews.