EBay Launches Sports Site Amid AOL Incursion Rumors

EBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) has launched a sports-themed section on its auction site, combining existing memorabilia, ticketing and experiences, sporting goods and licensed merchandise pages into a single section that it says will generate US$1 billion in sales this year.

Combined, the categories that make up the new eBaySports section generated $750 million in gross sales in 2001, eBay said, making it one of the companys fastest-growing business areas.

Bob Hebeler, general manager of the site, said eBay sells as much sports merchandise on any given day as any major sports-themed retailer but offers an “equal playing field” by giving small retailers and individuals access to a worldwide audience.

Good Deeds

EBay said its sports site will continue to feature regular charity auctions, such as a recent auction in which a chance to play golf with Tiger Woods sold for more than $400,000.

The growth of sports sales will be just one piece of a massive puzzle eBay must assemble in order to meet aggressive growth projections.

Morningstar.com analyst Mark Sellers told the E-Commerce Times that while eBay has a strong track record of profits, it has to “keep growing at a breakneck pace while improving profitability” to meet its own goals.

Friend or Foe?

The sports site launch came as published reports indicated AOL is holding internal discussions about moving onto some of eBay’s fixed-price selling turf.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that AOL, while prohibited by a partnership with eBay from expanding its auction business, may try to become a sales agent as it seeks to replace lost advertising revenues.

AOL spokesperson Nicholas Graham said the company has no comment on the report, which claimed AOL is developing a marketplace that will be based on sales commissions, a shift away from its current arrangement in which retailers rent space at AOL’s shopping destination.

Thanks, Pal

Meanwhile, eBay got good news about its soon-to-be-consummated acquisition of PayPal. The online payment company announced it has passed the 20 million-member mark, doubling the size of its registered membership base in a year.

PayPal chief operating officer David Sacks also noted that PayPal is on track to pass another milestone within the next two weeks: It will have processed $10 billion worth of payments since it launched three years ago.

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