Yahoo to acquire college sports Web site

Yahoo picks up Rivals.com

Yahoo Thursday said it has signed a deal to acquire Rivals.com, an online site for college and high school sports and recruiting information. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Yahoo said the acquisition will increase the community offerings and open publishing capabilities of Yahoo Sports.

The deal "exemplifies Yahoo's mission to connect people with their passions, communities and the world's knowledge," said Scott Moore, Yahoo's senior vice president and head of news & information, in a statement. "Among the more than half billion people who touch the Yahoo brand every month, we find that sports fans are among the most passionate. We're now best positioned to serve this important audience in the U.S."

Yahoo said Rivals.com's locally driven open publishing network will add to the offerings of Yahoo Sports, which currently focuses on national sports stories, as well as fantasy sports games and information.

Rivals.com has a network of more than 150 Web sites, and attracts approximately 2 million fans each month.

"Because the Rivals.com network also attracts an active community of users on each site, the acquisition will play an important role in building on Yahoo's mission to connect its users to their communities," according to the statement.

The acquisition means that Rivals.com will reach millions of additional sports fans, said Shannon Terry, CEO of Rivals.com, in the statement. In addition, Rivals.com will have marketing, sales and engineering support that wasn't previously available to the company, Terry said.

Yahoo said Rivals.com should bring new revenue opportunities to Yahoo's advertising and subscription businesses because Rivals.com reaches a "sought-after demographic: an engaged and highly educated consumer."

"The Rivals.com team produces a broad network of college team sites, with communities of fanatical, like-minded enthusiasts around this local content," said James Pitaro, vice president and general manager, Yahoo Sports, in the statement. "College sports engagement is primarily driven by community, and adding Rivals.com to Yahoo Sports creates tremendous opportunities for us to connect our sports fans with the right sports content at the right time."

Despite Yahoo's glowing praise for the deal, the short-term future might no be so rosy, according to one analyst.

"Yahoo has been historically slow at integrating new acquisitions into their network, nor would this deal be consummated in time for them to realize revenue from the Fall Sports lineup in this year's balance sheet," said Kathy Sharpe, CEO of New York-based research firm Sharpe Partners and a search engine expert, in an e-mail to Computerworld.

"It will bring more audience for awhile -- the risk being that their inability to integrate or integrate well, will rather quickly lose that audience to a very strong competitive set. Let me put it this way; ESPN would love this."

Sharpe said Yahoo should focus on either being a portal or a search engine and she suggests the former. "They should look at the resurgence at AOL and do likewise," she said.

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