Rivals Throws in Towel, Can Publishers Survive?

Just one month after Seattle-based Rivals Networks launched its subscription plan for premium content, the Sports Web site is throwing in the towel and will be shutting down.

Recruiting Analyst Bill Kurelic, a football expert for rivals, was one of the many publishers who received word of the upcoming shutdown in an email last night.

“Everyone saw this possibility coming,” says Kurelic, who before joining rivals had his own Internet site covering the MidWest football recruiting scene.

Kurelic told seattle.internet.com that it was his impression that the subscription plan was actually working quite well, but there must have just been too many expenses to overcome. Kurelic notes that like himself, he believes most of the rivals.com publishers will continue publishing on the Internet in some fashion.

However, some sites will be forced to take other options. Kurt O’Neill, for example , the publisher of rival’s ACC Recruiting Update will be offering his fans the latest info via the telephone.

In a online message to his readers O’Neill says: ” Rivals.com is going out of business and this site will go away for now. We plan to show up soon somewhere else, but for now thanks for all your support. You can still receive ACC Recruiting Updates three days a week at 1-900-820-6700. ”

Wesley Cheng publisher of NYKhoops.com hopes to hook up with another large Web site Allsports.com. In a letter to his readers Cheng notes that:

“Its been a privilege providing all of you with Knicks news stories and updates and we’ve enjoyed corresponding with you as a basketball community. In all likelihood, we will be moving to Allsports.Com to take over the New York Knicks Fan Page”.

According to Jerry Preeper, CEO of San Diego-based AllSports.com, it is unfortunate that Rivals is going to be disappearing. “The most unfortunate part is that now that they have left 600 publishers without a home,” says Preeper.

Preeper told seattle.internet.com that he is extending an open invitation to rivals’ publishers. “We’d love to talk to them”. According to Preeper his company , which also provides sports information for fans, has already set-up six sites since last night’s announcement.

Preeper notes that he is interested in exploring the subscription model. He plans on talking to various publishers to get their impressions of such an option and see how he can provide the neccessary tools for such an option.

There is speculation that Rivals Networks was in discussions with both Yahoo! and Nike for a possible acquisition. Seattle.internet.com has not received any confirmations from either of the players at press time.

After Yahoo! recently inked a content deal with the now-defunct sports network, sports fans and investors alike will be looking to how Rival’s departure will affect the portal’s sports content.

At the time, Yahoo!’s Director of Production , Tonya Antonucci, said that the partnership with Rivals is part of Yahoo! Sports’ committment to providing the most compelling online sports content to its visitors.

Going forward, a lesson to be learned is perhaps the importance of upholding the proposition that technology can streamline the costs of running a network of independent sites.

According to FanHome.com CEO Kevin Cabral, the tragedy of Rivals is an interesting case of a pitfall which has plagued many Internet companies.

“These companies were built to exploit simple, brilliant technologies that offered to create new forms of content and entertainment…yet at the same time, they
bulked up with an extraordinary number of liabilities which destroyed the
efficiencies those technologies had the potential to offer,” says Cabral.

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