October 1, 2014
120 Sports, an all-digital sports network, to launch mobile site today
June 25, 2014 12:02AM
A new all-digital sports network, 120 Sports, will launch at 5 p.m. Wednesday with the goal of becoming every sports fan’s go-to mobile site.
The network isn’t on any TV channel.
Instead, users download the 120 Sports app for free on their mobile devices and interact in real time with the streaming video. The app can be found Wednesday at the Apple App Store and starting July 14 on Google Play.
Fans may tweet a comment, see the latest trending sports news and get real-time notifications about their favorite teams and players — all on the same screen as the live video feed.
People may also access 120 Sports on non-mobile devices, such as a desktop computer, on 120Sports.com or at the Sports Illustrated website, SI.com. They will be able to hear the content but won’t be able to watch the video in the same screen while tweeting or searching.
The target audience is 18- to 35-year-olds, but the content is aimed at appealing to any rabid sports fan, 120 Sports President Jason Coyle said in an interview Tuesday at company headquarters on the campus of Oprah Winfrey’s former Harpo Studios. The company transformed the former Rosie O’Donnell show’s building as its new headquarters.
“Our goal is to be the nation’s water cooler,” Coyle said.
The network employs 130 people working in roles much like a TV station — as producers, directors, audio experts and camera people — but in this case, they work in real time with colleagues who stream data, scores, social media and other information to complement the video. The on-air personalities include former ESPN host Michael Kim, two-time Super Bowl champion defensive back Bryant McFadden and former NFL Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli.
Commercial breaks last 60 seconds, and no topic is discussed for more than two minutes at a time. Topics change on the fly as breaking news dictates.
The network will initially air live content from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Plans call for another two hours of morning shows, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Central, starting in mid-July.
The network will initially take no traditional advertising, Coyle said. Instead, it relies on big-name sponsors and private investors. White Sox fans can see the network’s only Chicago-based traditional advertisement — a prominent right-field wall sign — at U.S. Cellular Field.
The network’s sponsors are Verizon Wireless, Geico insurance company, Nissan auto company and Transamerica insurance company.
The private-equity investors are: Time Inc., parent company of Sports Illustrated; the National Hockey League; MLB Advanced Media, the interactive-media arm of Major League Baseball; Chicago-based Silver Chalice, a digital media company whose chairman is Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox, and Silver Chalice-owned Campus Insiders, a college sports network.
Its content partners include the NHL, NBA, PGA TOUR, MLB.com, NASCAR and Campus Insiders’ collegiate conferences.
Will it work?
Chicago-based sports media expert Lissa Druss Christman said Tuesday that the network’s leadership is strong, but its challenges will be to compete with established sports venues, feature likeable on-air personalities who show real chemistry and attract an older audience accustomed to tuning in to shows at specific times of the day.
“Some people still like watching on the big screen and the liveliness that goes with it,” said Christman, a consultant with Serafin & Associates. “Will people have to remind themselves to watch it?”
“Time will tell if the audience is there and if it features the kind of substance that sports fans really want,” she said.