Imagine this: You’re out on the town while your favorite sports team is playing, and it’s impossible to watch the game. There’s no cable for miles and ESPN doesn’t mesh with your mobile phone carrier. There’s Twitter, but there aren’t any video streams, especially ones tailored to your liking. You’re simply out of luck.
Enter 120 Sports, a streaming network for mobile devices that will be introduced Wednesday at 6pm. It will offer breaking news and sports video highlights in two-minute bites.
Miss a goal in World Cup soccer? No problem. Want to get the latest on LeBron? Easy enough. You can search for what you want through the app, either by a specific sport or athlete. At the bottom of the screen are related stats, tweets, and stories (including advertising, which is peppered throughout).
The network is backed by Time Inc. (TIME), which owns Fortune, with partners including the NHL, NBA, MLB.com, NASCAR and a number of college conferences through Campus Insiders. Silver Chalice, a media company that is one of the investors, will produce the site with a team of over 100 people while MLBAM, the digital arm of the MLB, will handle some of the technical infrastructure and software development.
“Building a venture of this magnitude could only succeed with the right group of sports and news organizations, and in the 120 Sports launch partners we have a product that will deliver on its promise to fans,” Bob Bowman, the president and CEO of MLBAM, said in a statement.
Former athletes including two-time Super Bowl champion Bryant McFadden and NFL Pro Bowl fullback, Ovie Mughelli, will provide analysis. Staff from Sports Illustrated, another Time Inc. publication, will also pitch in.
In addition to the app, users can get access to 120 Sports at its website.
“120 Sports is an innovative, addictive product that will give sports fans an amazing amount of always-on sports content and great technology so they can engage with news and highlights wherever they are,” said Todd Larsen, a Time Inc. executive vice president.
Time Inc. recently spun out from Time Warner and is trying to push beyond its core print magazine business into digital publishing. Like many traditional media companies, it’s trying to offset declining print ad revenue with new sources of revenue like online advertising.
But 120 Sports comes with challenges. Most of all, it must compete with a slew of other sports video sites, many of which offer live streaming rather than mostly highlights, said Ian Schafer, the CEO of Deep Focus, a digital marketing company.
“I think they have a serious uphill climb,” he said. “I’m bullish on the format,” but he added that “they will have to overcome significant odds to crack the monopoly,” which Schafer said included the leagues themselves. The major sport leagues may be partners in the venture, but it may be better business-wise for them to send traffic to their own sites rather than 120 Sports, he said.
Meanwhile, the app lacks access to one critical component for its launch date — video from NFL games. The football league did not give any video rights, although executives says the conversation to get them is ongoing.
The key demographic for 120 Sports will be younger people who predominantly use mobile apps for news and watching video, Schafer said. But Sports Illustrated may not offer much of a lift in that area because the median age of the magazine’s readers is 42. That being said, over a third of the magazine’s nearly 20 million total audience fall in the 18-34 age range.
Schafer continued that keys to success for 120 sports will be delivering news and video that’s different from its rivals and that keep visitors returning. The same goes for the advertisers, who want to reach an audience that they can’t get elsewhere.