SportsLine.com Dumps Gambling Business for NCAA Deal

SportsLine.com , partially owned by CBS, has entered into an agreement with the network to produce and host the official site for the men’s college basketball championship tournament for the next four years. In order to satisfy gambling-leery National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the sports site agreed to jettison its two gambling operations, VegasInsider.com and Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

The deal calls SportsLine.com to produce the official sites for 66 NCAA sports championships, but the centerpiece of the deal is the men’s basketball tournament. CBS Sports and SportsLine.com will share revenue generated from the new site, www.ncaasports.com. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Sportsline will produce, host and manage the site, which will replace the variety of NCAA-sanctioned official sites, including finalfour.net.

“We believe there is tremendous synergy between SportsLine.com, the NCAA and CBS Sports,” said Michael Levy, chief executive of SportsLine.com. “The disposal of VegasInsider.com and Las Vegas Sports Consultants will allow us to achieve our primary financial objectives by focusing on our core business.”

While sports information is the company’s core business, gambling information fit nicely as an add-on. SportsLine.com said it would take three to six months to dispose of the gambling units, likely resulting in its revenue guidance to come in on the low end of the $68 million to $72 million the company forecast in January.

The NCAA has a strict anti-gambling policy that forbids the organization to do business with companies that have ties to the gambling industry in any form.

The new site will launch March 1, ushering in the month-long frenzy of college basketball known popularly as March Madness. This year, CBS Sports began an 11-year, $6 billion deal to broadcast the NCAA basketball tournament, including this year’s Final Four in New Orleans.

In a positive sign for the online advertising industry, CBS Sports President Sean McManus said the deal was hastened by advertisers’ desire to buy both TV advertising and online programs from a single source for the tournament.

So far, blue-chip advertisers like Coca-Cola and General Motors have signed on to advertise on the site, in addition to TMP Worldwide’s career site Monster.

CBS owns a 31 percent stake in SportsLine.com, in exchange for promoting the site in its sports programming.

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