MSNBC Sports Joins E-Commerce Game

MSNBC.com, the Internet’s top-ranked general news site, announced Wednesday that it has signed a deal with eFANshop to add online shopping to its Sports channel.

MSNBC.com is adding the e-commerce component to target some of the Web’s most acquisitive users — 20 to 40 year-old males.

MSNBCsports.com draws upon the TV sports coverage provided by NBC and other partner networks plus sports reporting through content alliances with The Sporting News, The Washington Post, NBCOlympics.com and Golf.com. The site provides news and entertainment content from all the major professional and college sports, plus golf, tennis, horse racing, motor sports and boxing.

MSNBCSports.com is slated for launch in early June. eFANshop.com will supply licensed sports merchandise and apparel for the site, eliminating the need for MSNBCSports.com to maintain inventory or process and track purchases. eFANshop will provide Web building and site hosting services, as well as handling customer service and post-sale support for the MSNBCSports store.

Auspicious Portal Opening

For eFANshop, MSNBCSports.com provides a high-profile start to its new “OEM portal service,” which will develop and host e-commerce sites for Web content sites.

As its agreement with MSNBCSports.com is not exclusive, the Dallas, Texas-based eFANshop will likely court the news site’s competitors, as well as other sports-related content sites, to handle their e-commerce operations.

Top Dog

MSNBC.com has been the most popular general news site on the Internet for more than a year, according to Internet research firm Media Metrix. In February, MSNBC.com attracted 8.6 million unique users, or 11.8 percent of all Web surfers during that month.

The site ranked ahead of CNN.com, USAToday.com, FOXNEWS.com and others. CNN.com, the closest competitor, trailed MSNBC.com by 5.5 points for the month.

“Historically, marketers liked these kinds of sites for advertising purposes because of the high traffic they generate. The next challenge for companies is to turn these users’ information searches into revenue,” Media Metrix says.

A recent Media Metrix research report suggests eFANshop will face a significant challenge in turning visitors to content sites such as MSNBC into online buyers. According to Media Metrix’s “All Visitors Are Not Created Equal,” a study released in mid-April, sports fans comprise just four percent of active online users.

Sports fans average about 7.1 hours online each month, compared to 9.8 hours for the general population. In addition, though they may browse online sporting goods offerings to investigate what is available, they rarely make their purchases online, Media Metrix says.

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