Sports sites still have room to grow

Study says sites need broadband to draw big-name advertisers and e-commerce revenues remain small.

Sports sites continue to draw large numbers of users, but still don't get much mainstream sports advertising support. That's one of the main findings of a recent online sports report from Nielsen/NetRatings.

The study says that while sports sites draw millions of unique visitors, traditional sports advertisers, such as beer and car manufacturers, still lack faith in the online space. The study also notes that e-commerce efforts are still not bringing in much revenue for sports sites.

"We're now just seeing the tip of the iceberg in this space," said Allen Weiner, an analyst at NetRatings. He anticipated that sports sites should greatly expand sales of merchandise and tickets during the next few years.

Enhanced content, broadband needs
In the meantime, the vast majority of sites continue to rely primarily on banner advertising and subscriptions for revenues. Revenues from specialized services and content continue to lag, said Weiner. He also added that as more bandwidth is available on the desktop, advertising interest would increase.

ESPN Internet Venture agrees that enhanced content will appeal to larger advertisers.

"We really want to push the envelope in bringing content seen on TV and content seen on the PC together," said Eric Handler, an ESPN spokesman. He noted ESPN's WebCam, WeCasts, and live on-air chat rooms during their coverage of the X-Games as a step in this direction.

Nielsen/NetRatings says that ESPN.com, CBS Sportsline, and the WorldWide Wrestling Federation sites continued to make up the top three in the category, though a drop in traffic saw the WWF site fall from second place to third.

NetRatings said ESPN.com received 2.4 million unique visitors in June 1999, Sportsline 1.5 million and the WWF 1.4 million WWF dropped from 1.6 million in May.