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The Score: Sports Sites Score

comScore Media Metrix
The Score: Sports Sites Score comScore Media Metrix

While sports information traditionally has been distributed by television and radio, the internet is now being used to access sports information by as many, if not more, people than these long-standing mediums. In October 2004, its highest peak of that year, more than 58.9 million people visited sites in the Sports category, reaching 37.2 percent of the internet audience.

Much of this traffic is directed to the official websites of major sports leagues, due in part to media promotion and sales of tickets and merchandise. Among internet properties for three of the nation’s most popular sports -- the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB) -- the most successful league site in terms of visitation has been MLB.com, which has seen year-over-year growth of 41.8 percent from April 2004 to 2005.

Top Ten Sports Sites April 2005*

Unique Visitors
Total Audience - Sports Category 56,807
ESPN 15,994
MLB.COM 11,242
FOX Sports on MSN 11,237
Yahoo! Sports 9,456
NFL Internet Group 7,898
AOL Sports 7,578
SI.COM 5,393
Sportsline.com Sites 5,067
NBA Internet Network 4,744
* Total U.S. Home, Work and University Internet Users
Source: comScore Media Metrix

While traffic to these sites is most affected by the seasonal nature of sports, demographic information provides essential data to understand who visits these sites and why. 

In April 2005, visitors in the 18- to 24-year-old age group were 24 percent more likely than the average internet user to visit NBA.com. In relation, 18- to 24-year-olds were 12 percent less likely than the average internet visitor to view MLB.com, despite it being the top gaining property for the month. The NBA continues to attract younger fans with its promotion of equally youthful players, such as 20-year-old superstar Lebron James. The league’s site also benefits from the heavy promotion of NBA programs that benefit youth education, such as “NBA Read-To-Achieve,” which draws not only kids, but also their parents, who view the NBA as a more “family friendly” league.  

While the NBA has a hold on younger internet users, the NFL and MLB are drawing middle-aged users -- particularly middle-aged men -- at a much higher rate. Although visitation to sports sites is generally higher in this group, males ages 35 to 44 were 57 percent more likely to visit the NFL Internet Group and 48 percent more likely to visit MLB.COM than the average internet user in April 2005, compared to 29 percent for the NBA Internet Network. Higher visitation to MLB.COM can be expected with April being the league’s first full month of the season and also to NFL sites due to the NFL Draft, but it is surprising that the NBA lags behind because April marks the close of the regular season and the start of the NBA playoffs.

While league sites are popular among fans, ESPN is the most relied upon source of sports information. In the chart above, note that ESPN was never surpassed by any league site in terms of traffic during 2004, with the NFL being closest in September during the kickoff of the season. While traffic to league sites dropped dramatically due to seasonality, ESPN remained consistent, holding the number one spot in the Sports category for every month of 2004. 

ESPN was the top property in the Sports category in April 2005 with 15.9 million unique visitors. The success of the so-called “Worldwide Leader in Sports” can be attributed to a multi-channel strategy and a massive push of the ESPN brand. In addition to running one of the top cable networks, ESPN has its name attached to a series of restaurants, video games, clothing, radio stations and self-created sporting events, including the X Games and Outdoor Games. Additionally, ESPN now owns broadcasting rights to four of the top spectator sports in America -- the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA. By pushing its brand and touching fans across a large spectrum, ESPN has positioned itself as the top media outlet for all things sports. 

Sports information sites are forming content partnerships with general news sources, boosting exposure across a number of mediums in an effort to touch a wide variety of demographic groups. Partnerships such as Sports Illustrated (SI.com) and CNN, as well as Fox Sports and MSN Networks create large networks that are viewed by all demographics. Additionally, league sites host individual team sites where the most loyal fans visit for their team’s merchandise, tickets and other items in addition to sports information. Internet sites provide advertisers another strong avenue to reach the diverse and loyal sports fans.

About comScore Networks
comScore Networks
provides unparalleled insight into consumer behavior and attitudes. This capability is based on a massive, global cross-section of more than two million consumers who have given comScore explicit permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior, including online and offline purchasing. comScore panelists also participate in survey research that captures and integrates their attitudes and intentions. Through its patent-pending technology, comScore measures what matters across a broad spectrum of behavior and attitudes. comScore consultants apply this deep knowledge of customers and competitors to help clients design powerful marketing strategies and tactics that deliver superior ROI. comScore services are used by global leaders such as AOL, Yahoo!, Verizon, Best Buy, The Newspaper Association of America, Tribune Interactive, ESPN, Nestlé, Bank of America, Universal McCann, the United States Postal Service, GlaxoSmithKline and Orbitz.


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