Big League stew
Three of the "big four" U.S. sports leagues are teaming up to launch a new digital video channel, in conjunction with Time Inc. The channel, called 120 Sports, will launch later this spring, with content from Time's Sports Illustrated, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, as well as NASCAR and Campus Insiders.
The content will be streamed live across all devices and platforms, and will not require authentication with a pay-TV provider. The "120" in the name refers to 120 seconds, or two minutes: the length of the segments the channel expects to air. The segments will feature game clips, analysis, commentary and interviews, as well as fan reactions. In other words, it will look a lot like ESPN's "SportsCenter," but in smaller bites, and 24 hours a day.
“Building a venture of this magnitude could only succeed with the right group of sports and news organizations and in the 120 Sports launch partners we have a product that will deliver on its promise to fans,” said MLB Advanced Media C.E.O. Bob Bowman, in a statement.
MLB Advanced Media will provide the technology infrastructure of the channel. MLBAM already provides the tech backbone for ESPN's digital channel ESPN3, as well as Glenn Beck's TheBlaze, so it is no stranger to the live digital TV arena. Chicago-based digital sports media company Silver Chalice, which also has a stake in the channel, will handle the production and business operations for the channel.
120 Sports comes just a month after the N.F.L. announced a new digital channel of its own, "NFL Now," which bears a striking similarity to the new venture, albeit entirely N.F.L.-centric.
The digital channel also represents the latest attempt by organizations not traditionally in the TV space trying to get a piece of the very lucrative pie. ESPN isn't going anywhere, but recent years have seen rebrands and launches from CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports 1. 120 Sports won't be competing with any of the major TV players in the short term, but it is betting that it can pick up fans that just want to get the latest sports news, in a video form, when one of the TV channels isn't available. With no pay-TV authentication required, it also has lower barriers to entry than many of the traditional TV players.
The sports leagues get ownership in a digital network that can promote their brands and sports, while Time gets to plant a flag in the digital video ground in a big way.