Penske Media Corporation Introduces New Sports Business Platform

JohnWallStreet

Penske Media Corporation has announced its entrance into the sports business world with the launch of Sportico - a new digital content platform and events business. Long-time ESPN/Disney executive Dick Glover has been tasked with spearheading the venture (he’ll hold the title of president and CEO). Former Bloomberg reporter Scott Soshnick will serve as the publication's editor-in-chief and head of content. Glover said that the company's long-term goal is to become “the most trusted, reliable, source for breaking news, data insights, valuations, statistical analysis and thought leadership; the Switzerland of sports business information.”

Howie Long-Short: While Sportico is Penske Media’s first foray into the sports world, the company is well-established within the publishing business. PMC owns twenty-two technology, entertainment, art, music, fashion, media and lifestyle properties, including; Variety and Rolling Stone.

PMC CEO Jay Penske said in a press release that his company’s “long record of success in business to business and consumer publishing ventures” will help Sportico as it looks to stand out in a crowded sports business space. Having Soshnick on board to run the content side of the house should also help the company cut through the clutter. The award-winning scribe is well-respected and has a deep rolodex of sports executives he can tap in to for news and insight. Soshnick won’t be the only talented writer on the payroll, though. Glover said he intends to bring on “a dream team [of sports business reporters]. It’s incredibly trite to say, but better wins and it’s our belief that the ‘dream team’ will win [here too]. History shows as much.”

While some might question the decision to launch a sports-centric publication in the midst of an industry wide shutdown, Glover believes the timing actually gives Sportico a competitive advantage. “We’re with a company (PMC) that has a very strong balance sheet and a mandate to build something great; we can sail straight into this wind. [By comparison] other privately-held companies are seeing some of their owners get margin calls, companies that are venture-backed are seeing the spigot completely turned off and companies that are P.E.-backed are being told to batten down the hatches - cut, cut, cut.”

I pressed Glover on the Switzerland comment because the absolute last thing the industry needs is another publication that exists to serve sponsors. The former president and CEO of Mandalay Sports Media clarified explaining that he didn’t mean neutral. He envisions an outlet that is “fair and balanced. [One that] will question everything and get to the facts.” Advertising will be part of the Sportico business model, but “[advertisers] are going to join [the company] because this is  an environment that is good for their product to be [seen in]. And part of the reason why it is a good environment, is because we will be an independent news gathering organization. Great content is what will drive us.”

Sportico will have a live events business, but don’t expect a series of silly awards shows and surface-level panel discussions from Glover & Co. “The events will range from the intimate (think: lunch with Scott and a league commissioner) to the Davos of sports business.”

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