ESPN, SportsLine push pay services

ESPN re-launches Insider Services in an effort to reap more revenues from site.

If you build it, they will come -- and pay for the privilege. That "Field of Dreams" scenario seems to be the thinking behind ESPN.com and SportsLine.com's dueling online subscription services.

On Monday, ESPN re-released its Insider Services program, adding discounts at offline establishments to its existing exclusive content.

At $39.95 for 12 months, ESPN's pay-service is a self-dubbed "sports club" that gives users access to exclusive columns, 10 percent discounts on ESPN Store Online merchandise, as well as discounts at Disney theme parks and restaurants affiliated with the GO Network. The company feels a final selling-point of the service will be the chance for members to win a trip to ESPN headquarters.

Strength in numbers
"This demonstrates what you can do with a large family," ESPN's Jim McGee said. He noted that the diverse resources of the Go Network facilitate the expansion of Insider's offering of off-line products.

ESPN.com isn't the first sports site to offer members offline benefits. For instance, SportsLine's Rewards Plus program, which also costs $39.95 per year, allows users to accumulate points that are later used to purchase items from the company catalogue. Rewards Plus allows participants to spend points on non-catalog items, including online auctions and bidding to meet local sports celebrities.

SportsLine.com Vice President of Marketing Larry Kruguer said offering both on- and offline benefits to members is crucial for the success of a payment-based subscription service.

"A viable pay-member service must offer a comprehensive online and off-line package," he said.