UK sports sites to consolidate

The UK’s sports website market is on the point of consolidation, according to a well-placed source.

Leading players such as Sports.com, Sportal.co.uk, 365 Corporation and Rivals.net have recently been holding discussions about mergers and joint ventures.

“There’s been a lot of shuffling between offices and pitches for collaboration being made,” says an industry insider. “Now that the advertising market has fallen apart, many sites lack alternative revenue streams.”

Rivals.net claims it is in a strong position, despite unconfirmed reports that its US counterpart, Rivals.com, has laid off all its staff. Mark Terry, communications director at Rivals.net, a network of independent European sports sites, says the company has already financially distanced itself from the US.

“When we launched in August we were 75 per cent owned by Rivals.com and 25 per cent owned by Chrysalis,” says Terry. “But we took steps to change this in September, so that Chrysalis is now our major backer and Rivals.com’s stake is just nine per cent. Rivals.com’s closure has no bearing on our future.”

Terry claims Rivals.net has developed a number of non-advertising revenue streams, including content syndication, offline publishing, sports betting and database marketing.

Sportal recently signed a European sports coverage deal with CNN.com Europe. It has denied rumours of financial problems.

In recent figures released by Jupiter MMXI, Rivals.net tops the sports website category for the first time, with 212,000 unique users. Skysports.com is second, with 208,000, followed by Teamtalk.com, with 199,000, and Liverpoolfc.net is fourth with 155,000 unique users. Sportal, Sports.com and 365 all fail to make Jupiter’s cut-off point, which requires a one per cent reach of the at-home UK Internet audience.

Despite its relative success with Jupiter’s measurement, Rivals.net claims a substantially higher number of unique users. In its January audit by ABC Electronic, the figure was put at 610,000 and Rivals.net’s Terry claims this rose to 700,000 in its own unaudited February figures.

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