My crystal ball says there’s yet another sports media alliance in the making.
NBC and Yahoo! Sports dropped a quasi-bombshell on the Internet and broadcast worlds when they announced an alliance smack dab in the middle of the network’s airing of Sunday Night Football.
Without going into too much detail, they hatched a deal that could help one another greatly by enhancing one another’s web presence.
Yahoo! Sports receives access to NBC Sports’ programming, which includes the NFL, Notre Dame football, the NHL (whenever it returns) and other events and the personalities (Bob Costas, Tony Dungy), to use on its popular but struggling site. NBC, in turn, would receive access to Yahoo Sports’ content, which is among the best and most highly trafficked on the Internet.
On the surface, NBC, which recently converted Versus to a national cable sports network, made a shrewd move that will increase traffic to a site that can be described as listless at best.
Whose turn will it be next?
News Corp., the Rupert Murdoch-controlled company, has made bold moves in the area of sports media in recent weeks, including purchasing a controlling stake in the New York Yankees’ YES Network and, locally, it’s also expressed an interest in regional sports network SportsTime Ohio. Next for it, according to reports, is a national sports network to go with a plethora of regional ones.
Then there’s the CBS Sports Network, the eye network’s own entry into the wide world of cable sports networks.
Who makes the move to further expand their reach next?
Fox Sports enjoys a comfy relationship with MSN, the Microsoft Network that was created in response to the popularity of AOL back in the mid-’90s. That partnership has allowed it to rise to become the ninth-most-popular sports website in the U.S., according to Alexa, a company that specializes in tracking web traffic. But CBS, which has a popular stable of writers, sits just above them at No. 8.
The ultimate goal for any of these alliances is to topple King Kong — ESPN. NBC made a bold move to do that, but there’s still one major potential partner out there that could be a kingmaker — Google.
When looking at the website rankings, Google ranks No. 1 globally and in the U.S. More noticeably, the company whose primary business had been as a search engine has slowly but steadily been expanding its content offerings over the years.
Consider the purchase of YouTube, the establishment of social media site Google+ to compete with Facebook, among others.
However, its killer move has come in the realm of hardware and the development of the Android operating system for mobile phones. Android, now just 4 years old, has quickly dug into Apple’s market share in both smartphones and tablet computers.
Google developed its Play Store, a digital storefront much like Amazon.com that sells music, books, movies and TV shows to go with its other content offerings. It also owns phone manufacturer Motorola and has recently dipped its toe into a partnership with tablet manufacturer Asus to make a device that bears its name.
It, however, is missing that major sports partner that can enhance all its hardware sales and bolster content. Each network has offerings (the NFL, SEC football, NCAA basketball for CBS, and NFL, college football, MLB for Fox) that would prove attractive to any potential web partner.
Those networks should look to Google to expand their reach. It’s one thing to show up in its search engine. It’s another to be able to say it’s a partner.
In a world that’s increasingly going more mobile, this type of convergence is on the verge of becoming the rule, not the exception. For CBS and Fox it’s a matter of which will be left without a dance partner.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.