RealTime IT News

Google, SportsLine.com Ink Search Pact

SportLine.com announced Monday it partnered with search leader Google for both algorithmic search and paid listings.

The multi-year agreement calls for Google to provide Web and site search capabilities, in addition to serving up to five paid listings on the results page. The exact duration and financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

SportsLine will look to push search more with the integration of the search box on every page of the site. Previously, SportsLine.com offered users a homegrown site search feature and no Web search.

Content sites have begun using paid listings to derive extra revenue from their users. Google rival Overture in February signed a deal with ESPN.com to provide similar services.

SportsLine.com spokesman Larry Wahl said the company chose Google over other search companies based on the total search offering it brought to the table.

"We did consider competitive offerings," he said. "In our situation, we felt like Google offered us the best opportunity."

While previously positioning itself as a pure paid-listings provider, Google rival Overture Services reshaped its business earlier this year when it snatched up search engine Alta Vista and the Web search unit of FAST Search and Transfer. The new algorithmic search technologies allow Overture to offer complete search packages, like Google.

Google and Overture have pegged content sites as a largely untapped frontier for paid search, which is forecast to grow from a $1.5 billion annual market to $7 billion in 2007, according to investment bank U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray.

Overture has inked a series of deals, including with CNN's Web sites, while Google inked a deal in early March to provide search services for a handful of Disney sites.

After barreling into the paid-listings market a year ago, Google won key deals from incumbent Overture, snatching away distribution partners EarthLink, Ask Jeeves and AOL. Google recently pegged its advertiser base at 100,000 -- about 20 percent larger than Overture's.

In addition, Google recently beat Overture to the punch with its context-targeted paid listings product, which serves up keyword links on relevant content pages. Recently, Google inked deals with ad networks Fastclick and Burst Media to offer the context-targeted ads to their 14,000 sites. Overture plans to release a similar offering later this year.

Wahl said SportsLine.com would only carry paid listings on its search-results page, not its content pages.

SportsLine.com recently scored a major coup with a four-year deal to provide the Web site for the NCAA men's basketball tournament. As part of the deal, the company agreed to sell off its gambling-related business units.