Debut of 120 Sports: ‘Online SportsCenter for multitaskers with mobile devices’

Get ready to add an ap on your mobile device and bookmark another sports site on your computer.

120 Sports makes it official debut tonight at 6 p.m. ET Eastern. Here’s the link to the site and a sample of what to expect.

The details from Robert Channick of the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago-based 120 Sports is set to go live Wednesday with a steady stream of video highlights, pumped-up hosts, flashy graphics and score updates, making it a lot like other national sports cable networks — except for the cable.

The all-digital 24/7 network aims to be an online reinvention of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” for multitaskers with mobile devices and short attention spans.

Equity partners Time Inc. and Silver Chalice, a digital media company led by Bulls and White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, have teamed with MLB.com and the NHL and NBA to deliver video-driven sports reports with social interaction and related factoids in two-minute segments, hence the name, 120 Sports.

“We want to create a daily habit, where you’ll check us multiple times a day and have as long a viewing session as possible,” said Jason Coyle, 43, president of 120 Sports.

The network will stream live from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 3 to 11 p.m. Sunday. A morning show is also in the works, according to executives. During downtimes, 120 Sports will offer video on demand, giving fans a chance to catch up on the big stories of the day.

No cable subscription is required, and a free app unlocks the full service on tablets and smartphones.

Matt Brown of Sports on Earth had this assessment.

While hardly a direct comparison, think of it as sort of an NFL RedZone for sports conversation, quickly bouncing between topics in 120-second intervals — while also allowing users to watch in whatever order they please — and cutting in with highlights of important happenings around the sports world, along with focus on fantasy sports updates. Instead of being scripted, it’s user-driven and reactive to what sports fans are talking about in real time.

And this:

The best way to distinguish itself should be through all the rights it owns — the lack of NFL rights on Sundays in the fall is a notable omission — because on-air talent alone won’t be enough to attract viewers and keep them. The basic flow of a night at 120 Sports will go from pregame coverage to in-game talk to recaps of storylines (although all sports will be discussed year-round) and on Monday we got a look only at the first part, at 6 p.m., which may have the hardest time capturing an engaged audience. In our brief look, we saw Kim, Doyle and McFadden — all dressed casually, by design — standing around in-studio for a two-minute debate about which Washington, D.C.-area venue should host the NHL’s Winter Classic. 120 Sports likely won’t be attracting viewers through a former football and basketball player broadly talking about hockey — a problem that Fox Sports Live has had with, say, panel discussions featuring Andy Roddick chiming in on the NFL. But when live highlights are mixed in with discussion of current events, it should be easier to build an engaged audience.

Indeed, not having access to NFL highlights will be a major obstacle in the fall. Nothing moves the needle like pro football. 120 Sports will have to figure out a solution in that department.

Here’s another issue. Writes Sandra Gay of the Chicago Sun-Times:

Commercial breaks last 60 seconds, and no topic is discussed for more than two minutes at a time. Topics change on the fly as breaking news dictates.

What? There are going to be 60-second breaks for commercials? If I only have two minutes get my sports highlights, I’m not spending 60 seconds, or even 30 seconds, watching a commercial.

Also, what’s to stop ESPN or Fox Sports from creating a similar format to compete with 120 Sports? Each outlet has higher brand recognition and has the NFL under its umbrella.

Obviously, there are kinks to be ironed out. However, there also are a lot of smart people behind this, not to mention a ton of money. At the end of the day, it’s all about changing people’s viewing habits.

From the Sun-Times:

Will it work?

Chicago-based sports media expert Lissa Druss Christman said Tuesday that the network’s leadership is strong, but its challenges will be to compete with established sports venues, feature likeable on-air personalities who show real chemistry and attract an older audience accustomed to tuning in to shows at specific times of the day.

“Some people still like watching on the big screen and the liveliness that goes with it,” Christman said. “Will people have to remind themselves to watch it?”

“Time will tell if the audience is there and if it features the kind of substance that sports fans really want,” she said.

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