Yesterday's news that World Championship Sports Network (WCSN) has sold a majority interest to Leo Hindery's InterMedia Partners shows that the company's success in aggregating the Long Tail of sports is succeeding. In addition, it shows there are slivers of success in paid subscription models. To be sure, WSCN also sells plenty of ads, but the core of the company's model is its $4.95/mo or $49.95/year subscriptions.
Hindery, who in his past life headed former #1 cable operator TCI, knows from TCI's old Liberty Media affiliate, as much as anyone about creating programming value, and this move should certainly be read as a major endorsement of WCSN's strategy. The company has come a long way quickly, I recall speaking to CEO Claude Ruibal about 18 months ago when he was first fleshing out his distribution strategy. Kudos to him and his team for doing deals with many of the majors (MSN, AOL, Yahoo, FoxSports, ESPN.com, etc.) and no doubt driving dramatic traffic gains.
For those not familiar with WCSN, their model has focused on aggregating exclusive Internet rights from key Olympics sports associations, whose sports are generally not well-covered on broadcast or cable TV.
WCSN has been remarkably successful in aggregating these rights. The site lists at least 20 association partners and says "WCSN’s sports coverage includes over 200 live annual events, offering more 2,000 hours of annual original event programming and more than 10,000 hours of archival programming..." One can only imagine the frequent flyer miles that have been racked up by WCSN executives getting these deals done.
WCSN’s sports coverage includes over 200 live annual events, offering more 2,000 hours of annual original event programming and more than 10,000 hours of archival programming..." One can only imagine the frequent flyer miles that have been racked up by WCSN executives getting these deals done.
A key lesson to WCSN's subscription success is the incredible allure of sports programming. No matter how niche, there seems to always an audience of rabid fans. And their willingness to pay for coverage is insatiable. Now it looks like WCSN is going to ramp up its ad sales as well. In doing the spade work to aggregate this long list broadband rights with clear monetization opportunities, WCSN has created substantial value. No doubt as the business continues to grow it will be an attractive acquisition candidate. If I had to bet, I'd expect an exit to ESPN, the sporting world's 800 pound gorilla, will be in the offing down the road.