I’ve recently learned that Warner Bros. and TMZ mastermind Harvey Levin will soon be starting a sports-only website called TMZSports.com (parked), to launch sometime in the next couple months. The content will be akin to TMZ’s entertainment site - but for sports. I’ve also been told that the site was planned well before the Tiger Woods scandal, so the timing of the pending launch is fortuitous to say the least.
In what probably isn’t a coincidence, TMZ’s sports gossip site will go online almost immediately after Warner Bros. takes over complete control of the TMZ franchise from AOL. While TMZ.com is contractually obligated to remain as part of AOL.com for another year, that might not apply to TMZSports.com.
With that in mind, I don’t know if TMZSports.com will be formally associated with AOL’s Fanhouse sports site, but considering that TMZ.com will be making a clean break from AOL at the end of 2010, I would tend to doubt it.
When it comes to staffing, as TMZ.com lists no contributors, I would assume that TMZSports.com will be no different. I personally have heard nothing on who will be involved in content production.
(Quick, throw her in the closet … DO IT NOW.)
So why is Levin is starting TMZSports.com? If you have to ask that question, this must be your first visit to SbB.
Look at ESPN. With the majority of our only truly national sports network’s revenue derived from contractual agreements to broadcast NFL, MLB, NBA and NCAA hoops and football games, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that ESPN’s news reporting operation could be compromised by those financial arrangements.
Add in the fact that ESPN has no major national sports media competitor and now tell me what incentive ESPN has to report negative news about anything involving those league partners?
Of course, you already know all that if you visit me regularly. You see the stories that we produce daily that in many cases have every right to be reported nationally.
Say a sports blog breaks an original story that portrays one of ESPN’s league partners in an unflattering light. Because ESPN doesn’t have to fear another national network competitor widely distributing that blog’s story - because no such competitor exists - why would ESPN acknowledge the story? (Happens every single day, friends.)
That’s where TMZSports.com will come in. Harvey Levin doesn’t have to worry about a college football broadcast contract worth hundreds of millions when investigating Charlie Weis‘ on-the-record claim that Pete Carroll was living with a grad student in Malibu. Levin doesn’t have to worry about getting press credentials to future USC games, or getting access to Carroll for interviews.
Most importantly, Levin has the desire and the ability to distribute what he finds out about Carroll’s living arrangement to a large enough audience that the story will break through into the mainstream. Something independent sports blogs with huge scoops are largely incapable of.
Don’t think for a minute that ESPN’s beaten-down competitors aren’t also aware of this and will pick up TMZSports.com exclusives soley to force ESPN’s hand on inevitable, embarrasing stories dug up by Levin & Co
The sports media monopoly created by ESPN hath wrought a perfect storm for TMZSports.com to not only succeed, but to turn the industry upside down. Because not only will TMZSports.com itself quickly break into the mainstream, but its prominence will cause previously myopotic sports media consumers to suddenly consider a sports blogosphere that has been, to this point, largely ignored on an astonishing scale.
Why do you think independent entertainment and political blogs are so much larger and prominent in main media than sports blogs? Simple, because there’s more competition to break stories among the main political and entertainment media players. With sports, you have one option and one option only on television: ESPN. So if ESPN doesn’t acknowledge prominent sports blogs, which it doesn’t, how would most typically busy sports fans ever know they exist?
To be clear, I’m not criticizing anyone at ESPN for their business and editorial practices. If I was only out to make money and keep Disney corporate officers placated on a quarterly basis, I’d be doing the exact same thing.
TMZSports.com will be one of the few operations, if not the only, that can make a dent in ESPN’s brilliant business acumen. How large that dent will be depends on its editorial execution, but if TMZ.com is any indication, we may be looking at an industry game changer that could somewhat destabilize ESPN’s complete dominance over the field.