Startup venture 120 Sports is looking to create a kind of next-gen ESPN — but without any live games, and lacking content from the NFL, the most popular sports league in America.
The company, whose equity investors include Time Inc., MLB Advanced Media and digital media firm Silver Chalice, announced plans to debut a live-streaming 24-hour online network this spring with sports content from MLB, NHL, NBA and other partners.
The 120 Sports service, free for consumers to watch across multiple devices, will integrate video and data “in ways fans haven’t experienced before,” according to the venture. Silver Chalice will oversee production and business operations. Production headquarters for 120 Sports will be in Chicago at a custom-designed facility on the campus of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios.
Notably absent from 120 Sports’ lineup is the National Football League — which itself is gearing up to launch a live, personalized Internet video service this summer, dubbed NFL Now.
The total investment in 120 Sports is not being disclosed, according to spokesman Emigdio Gamboa. The venture has more than 100 full-time production, talent and marketing staff. Jason Coyle, previously Silver Chalice’s COO, was named president of 120 Sports to lead day-to-day operations.
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At launch, content partners will include Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated, the NHL, NBA, MLB.com, NASCAR and collegiate conferences via Campus Insiders, a joint venture between IMG College and Chicago-based digital sports-media company Silver Chalice.
“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 statement. “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.”
Time Inc. earlier this month disclosed that it will lay off a significant number of employees, reportedly as many as 500, as the publishing division prepares to be spun off by parent Time Warner. That separation is to occur in the second quarter of 2014, according to Time Warner execs.
The 120 Sports service will be created and powered by MLBAM’s technology infrastructure and mobile app development, debuting on apps and 120Sports.com as well as other distribution outlets. The venture said it expects to launch a premium content offering in 2015.
Bob Bowman, president and CEO of MLBAM, added that “this is the right time to collaborate across the infrastructure of sports properties as we take the collective assets of each partner directly to fans on their favorite devices.”
The 120 Sports name comes from its concept of running programming in 2-minute segments. The 120 Sports lineup will feature original and hosted programming including game footage, analysis, conversation and social commentary from players, other sports personalities and fans.
Silver Chalice and Sports Illustrated’s national sales organizations will lead all sales and marketing, while Sports Illustrated and Time Inc. will also provide operational and business development support.