The Beijing Olympics won't come around until August of next year, but one local firm is already beginning to feel the impact.
Los Angeles-based World Championship Sports Network last week received a major cash infusion and forged a distribution partnership with ESPN.
The online network covers more than 60 different Olympic sports through programming agreements with many key international federations and national governing bodies. The video footage the network owns is in increasing demand as media outlets prep coverage for the Beijing Games.
Four-year-old WCSN has grown steadily and last week it closed a funding package with New York-based private equity firm InterMedia Partners. The deal makes InterMedia the majority stakeholder in the network.
The investment comes on the heels of a distribution agreement the network signed with ESPN.com.
"Deals like the one with ESPN have companies like InterMedia interested in investing in us," said WCSN Chief Executive Claude Ruibal. "Media is a cash intensive industry."
He says that the start-up venture should become profitable in early 2009 if all goes according to plan.
Last week's deal with Burbank-based Walt Disney Co. subsidiary ESPN is the most recent in a string of recent partnerships with media outlets including Fox Sports, Yahoo and AOL Video. The company will bring exclusive content to ESPN360.com, the recently re-launched live sports broadband network. Additionally, the company will provide content for ESPN's Olympic Sports section.
Through a series of agreements with governing bodies, WCSN has gained rights to broadcast world championships for many sports, a number of which will not be broadcast on network or cable TV in the United States. For example, visitors to the site can see this year's victory by Tyson Gay in the 100-meter world championship in Osaka, Japan.
The company is building a system that will allow it to archive clips of world-class athletes. As the site grows, Ruibal expects advertising revenues to increase, which could eventually lead to content being offered at no charge instead of the current subscription model.
"We expect to be one of the top 20 sports Web sites on the net," Ruibal said.
While the Los Angeles Dodgers failed to make the postseason, ticket holders made the team the top draw in the National League this year.
The team sold 3,857,036 tickets during the 2007 season, narrowly surpassing the New York Mets for the top spot. The Dodgers have increased attendance for seven consecutive years, although they failed to reach the goal set by owner Frank McCourt to bring in four million fans.
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