Time Inc., MLB, NHL and More Throw Support Behind New 120 Sports Network

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ESPN may consider itself the “World Wide Leader in Sports,” but Sports Illustrated’s owner, Time Inc., and a few major sports leagues are looking to take a big piece of its action with a big investment in online sports network startup, 120 Sports.

Online video is growing exponentially, Time Inc. will join Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, NASCAR, and college sports conferences to create content for the network that will “include content such as game highlights and commentary in two-minute segments,” according to the Wall Street Journal. No live games will be featured.

The NFL is not currently part of the 120 Sports package since it announced last month that it will have its own online video app, NFL Now, “that will tailor programming according to each user’s interests, part of an independent effort by the league to extend its reach on digital platforms,” the Journal reports.

The 120 Sports site will launch later in the spring and have its own app, but the content may also appear on third-party sites. It won’t require viewers to authenticate their cable providers, such as how NBC won’t allow online viewers to watch live streams of Olympics coverage without entering such information.[more]

The move is particularly interesting since Time Inc., long seen as an aging print-first entity, is about to be spun off from its Time Warner parent in the second quarter, a move that could result in the loss of 500 jobs. As a sign of the changing times, the company will present at the annual NewFronts to ad buyers for the first time this spring. While 120 Sports will be free for now, a premium content offering will likely come in 2015, according to Variety.

“120 Sports is an innovative, addictive product that will give sports fans an amazing amount of always-on sports content and great technology so they can engage with news and highlights wherever they are,” Time Inc. exec VP Todd Larsen said in a press release. “The product will offer Sports Illustrated fans a terrific complement to our editorial coverage, and as a business partner Time Inc. will have a stake in an enterprise with tremendous promise.”

As Adweek notes, Sports Illustrated “has been more aggressive than most Time Inc. brands in terms of its video offerings.” About 50 videos a week are created by its three-year-old video unit and it has produced a 30-munite, daily talk show, SI Now, since last May. Those entities are expected to stay in place while the magazine creates additional content for the new sports network, which will be optimized across, desktop, mobile, tablet and connected devices for 24-hour access. 

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