Top Players and Rankings
Sports is a lucrative media vertical and an important lifestyle segment. With online users frequenting various sports sites for live scores, news, updates, streaming videos, etc. it is fast catching on as a major online segment as well. The advent of fantasy sports and networking sites have taken online sports to a different level and has resulted in a significant rise in traffic to the sports sites. Some of the top sites for sports are Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, MLB, ESPN, AOL Sports, and NBA.
Yahoo Sports is the leading online sports portal in the US with 14.9 Million unique visitors, followed by Fox Sports (13.6 Million), MLB (12.9 Million) and ESPN with 12.9 Million unique visitors in June 2007.
In 2006, Yahoo made a separate section on the FIFA World Cup, with live match coverage, data, statistics and viewer commentary. The initiative by Yahoo Sports brought television and digital media on a common platform. The site was viewed 4.3 billion times during the month-long tournament. I was, myself, a frequent visitor to the site, and followed the saga of Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt in the days that followed the FIFA final.
New Entrants and Innovators
While the earlier efforts in online sports have revolved around the larger ones like Football, Basketball, Baseball and Soccer (and Cricket, in the case of India), online sports sites are making a shift from the mass to the niche. Today sites are being developed targeting niche sports like Triathlon (Ontri), KiteBoarding (KiteBoarder), Tow Surfing (TowSurfer), etc.
SheCycles, launched in 2005 by Magicalia is a sports site dedicated to women cyclists. The site includes specialized content on track racing to free ride, mountain biking to road racing and also offers useful tips for women riders on how to ride and train better, with nutrition, health and events news, even following the women race scene worldwide.
BallHype, launched earlier this year is a sports news and social networking site that allows users to post sports related stories and other users to vote / rate those stories up or down, and add comments. Here, fans can focus upon local teams or favorite league and are free to add friends and create groups.
PicksPal is a social networking site and it has created a virtual gathering place for sports fans to prove who really knows their American sports. It is a free, national competition for sports fans to compete daily in a pick’em game, earning points by correctly predicting sports outcomes.
Yardbarker is a social news site where users submit links to the best sports content from around the web. The community rates quality and the users get to see the best content.
Joga is a joint endeavor by Google and Nike to create an online community for soccer fans and players.
TAKKLE is a social network for high school sports. TAKKLE is a place where students, athletes, coaches, and fans can share their passion for sports. TAKKLE was developed to help high school athletes succeed.
Also, sites are coming up with fantasy gaming, live blogging and social networking features. Fantasy gaming, in particular, is a high potential market opportunity that merges the success factors of various sports, the passions of the fans of each, with the addictive nature of computer / online gaming.