CBS, SportsLine announce terms of deal

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CBS Sports on Wednesday announced its expected partnership with SportsLine USA to create CBS SportsLine. Under terms of the deal, CBS will invest $100 million over the next four years and own 22% of SportsLine; CBS has the option to increase its share to 33%.

A CBS spokesman denied reports that the $100 million in CBS funding will come in the form of a $50 million cash investment supported by $50 million in advertising. CBS will begin advertising efforts this weekend; 30-second TV spots as well as scoreboard signage and other graphics will be used to market CBS SportsLine.

CBS will try to acquire the rights to provide video for the SportsLine site; according to CBS Sports President Sean McManus, only some of the contracts include that right at present. Mr. McManus said the agreement, which "would never have happened if SportsLine wasn't already No. 1," is part of an overall plan to "spread our tentacles and be involved in lots of different businesses."

Michael Levy, SportsLine president-CEO, said the service is what sports fans want because "when TV breaks away from a major event, SportsLine is still there; we cover the events around the events." Until now, he said, not enough people have known about the service; SportsLine receives between 125,000 and 150,000 visits a day, figures which the partners expect to triple as a result of the partnership.

Sportsline will change its Web address to http://www.cbs.sportsline.com as part of the deal.

The long-awaited transaction will present a major threat to online sports juggernaut ESPNet SportsZone. Still waiting in the wings for their own Web-based sports plays are Fox Broadcasting Co., which earlier had discussions with SportsLine, and NBC.

Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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