Quick note before I get started, I’ve been doing some writing on awfulannouncing.com, one of my all time favorite sports blogs and the newest addition to Bloguin. If you want in on that action, check out some of the links below:
Enough self promotion for now.
It was a little over a year ago when it was announced that NBC had bought Pro Football Talk. That was the headline in most publications, that NBC had acquired the uber popular NFL focused site. But if you dug a bit deeper the actual deal was for exclusive content from the site, while site founder Mike Florio actually retained the website.
Florio will still own the website but has sold exclusive rights to its content to NBC.
Fast forward more than a year later and PFT’s affiliation has been an overwhelming success. Traffic has climbed, the site’s influence and awareness has grown, PFT was featured many times over on Sunday Night Football, and NBC launched a handful of similar blogs on their website seen below.
Recently SBJ did a great article on NBC’s relaunch of NBCSports.com which focused on the growth of NBCSports.com in its first year with PFT as a partner site.
The redesign will expand on already active plans for the NBC site in which the PFT model — featuring a blog-based effort as an entry point for the site’s coverage of a league — has been replicated for other major sports, with HardballTalk.com, ProBasketballTalk.com and ProHockeyTalk.com all showing strong growth of their own.
NBCSports.com generated 7.845 million unique visitors in July, according to comScore, ranking the site No. 10 among U.S. sports destinations and more than twice the 3.783 million visitors seen in the same month last year.
The article goes on to say that the largest chunk of 7.845 million UV’s is from PFT.
First and foremost, I think it needs to be said that while I really like a lot of the things NBC is doing online, the whole blog based strategy is really a great imitation of what Yahoo Sports has been doing for 3 years now. Similar how I can’t take credit for coming up with Bloguin’s model as it is a variance of the SBN or MVN model, I would warn against crowning the folks at NBC as pioneers of digital media.
The next thing to consider is that NBC is one of many mainstream media companies looking to reinvent itself online in regards to sports. SI has handed over control of SportsIllustrated.com to Turner Sports, Sporting News has gone through a redesign and new content strategy, and CBS as well Fox have been implementing some new site designs and digital partnerships as well.
At a high level, you have to think that these companies grew a little sick of ESPN dominating online although didn’t think there was much they could do about it. As Yahoo Sports surpassed ESPN in terms of audience size and companies like SB Nation, Yardbarker, Bleacher Report, and FSV started cracking the Top 10 list of digital sports properties, I think the higher ups at these companies decided it was time to get off their hands and reinvent themselves online especially considering that both Yahoo and ESPN were reporting record revenue online even in a rough economy.
NBC made the smart move to get PFT affiliated under them and to own all of their content. Over the last year its become the identity of NBC’s digital efforts. With NBC likely to be joining Comcast’s portfolio pending regulatory acquisition approval, you have to wonder when NBC and PFT will go from engaged to married.
For those unaware of the pending Comcast acquisition of NBC, its the hot topic amongst sports Internet professionals and I’m sure you’ll read more about this on the site in the coming weeks/months. Given NBCsports.com is gaining momentum with PFT, Comcast owns Versus, has an investment in SB Nation, and Comcast is quickly growing its Regional Sports Affiliate Network, it seems there are a lot of pieces in place to give ESPN its first viable competitor spanning multiple forms of media.
ESPN nor any MSM website has anything like a PFT. While I’m a fan of National Football Post, PFT is potentially the most successful sports blog on the web and could fetch a very significant 8 figure amount if/when NBC decides to pull the trigger.
My best guess is that NBC won’t make an offer until a) the acquisition by Comcast finalizes b) the current PFT deal with NBC nears its halfway point . Nobody I have talked to has any insight on just how much that deal was for and the duration of the deal (isn’t it great when everyone abides by their NDA?). I’d surmise that with sports being a big point of emphasis for Comcast/NBC going forward and the level of comfort and success that PFT has had with NBC, its likely we could see PFT bought out entirely sometime in late 2011.
It would be quite the dramatic move if another party jumped in and made a run at PFT before anything with NBC was finalized. Its very possible another MSM company could sniff around and maybe even make a bid in hopes of landing the site or even driving up the price on NBC. The current deal may also have some restrictions on PFT’s ability to solicit these type of offers or give NBC exclusive rights to match any offer.
Until PFT is owned by a mainstream media company it remains the largest individual asset on the market and the one that’s probably the most attractive to advertisors. What price it will ultimately fetch remains to be seen but until more is known about its current deal and Comcast continues to manuever towards clashing with ESPN, many including myself will look on with intrigue as two iconic brands continue to benefit from its current relationship.