MSN's multiyear, multi-million-dollar content partnership with Fox Sports—due to start July 1 —opens up ad-sales opportunities for the portal in the hugely popular sports vertical, previously unavailable under its expiring contract with ESPN.
The Redmond, Wash.-based, Microsoft-owned Web property said last week that it tapped Fox Sports to replace its nearly 3-year-old sports-content partner ESPN, which maintained control over its own ad inventory. Under the new alliance, MSN will be the exclusive distributor and provider for all advertising on the co-branded site (Fox Sports on MSN), though Fox Sports' broadcast sales team will continue to lead integrated offline-online ad packages.
"We have relationships with all the large marketers, and we did not have a sports asset to sell them," said MSN chief media revenue officer Joanne Bradford, noting that the site's 18- to 49-year-old, male-skewed demographic is particularly attractive to automotive, financial services, packaged goods, beverage and travel marketers.
For Fox Sports—whose 2.9 million unique visitors in March ranks well behind ESPN's 16 million, according to comScore Networks —the hope is that MSN's 350 million monthly visitors will put the site on a larger playing field.
"There are some [advertisers] who take the top one or two sites based on ratings," said Ross Levinsohn, svp and general manager at Fox Sports Interactive Media. "[Now], not only will we continue to get buys and they'll be bigger because we'll have a bigger reach, but I think we'll also get into some of those exclusive buys."