THE MARKETING 100: CBS SPORTSLINE: MICHAEL LEVY

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CBS sportsline founder and President-CEO Michael Levy had trouble getting those first three network letters added onto the front of his product name. But when he finally succeeded in March 1997, the sports Web site began a swift ascent to challenge No. 1 ESPN SportsZone.

Before CBS, Mr. Levy thought it might be the Fox network that would be his TV partner. But negotiations didn't pan out. That left CBS and NBC as potential partners. However, neither CBS nor NBC seemed very interested. An initial meeting with CBS in June 1996 went nowhere.

Mr. Levy and his team, which included Exec VP-Sales Mark Mariani, a former sports VP of sales at Turner Sports, tried again.

With Sean McManus now in as president of CBS Sports, the network offered a deal, and by March 1997, it was closed.

"That really gave us credibility and from that point forward people knew they had to take us seriously," Mr. Levy says.

CBS SportsLine immediately caught on as basketball fans flocked to the Web site during the NCAA tournament.

The deal with CBS stipulates that the network provide $57 million worth of TV advertising over five years. But, Mr. Levy says the relationship goes way beyond that. Besides the promotion on every CBS sporting event, which now includes the National Football League for the first time in eight years, the CBS and SportsLine ad sales teams work closely together, he says.

While CBS SportsLine is still not profitable, analysts that follow the company predict break even by the end of '99 and profitability in 2000.

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