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Cable Operators

Site Makeovers Pay Off for Comcast Sports Group

5/14/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

With his sites scoring big
in April, Eric Grilly believes even
brighter days lie ahead for Comcast
Sports Group’s digital activities.

“We continue to expand and dedicate
resources and we’re seeing the
payoffs in terms of quality newsgathering
organizations that are
feeding multiple platforms,” Grilly,
Comcast Sports Group’s executive
vice president and chief digital
officer, said.

April was a busy sports month,
with the climax of March Madness,
the start of the Major League Baseball
season, pro hockey and basketball
playoffs, and the NFL Draft.

HEADY STATS

Riding that interest, the five websites
tied to Comcast Sport Networks’
owned-and-operated RSNs
in Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.;
New England; the San Francisco Bay Area; and Chicago
saw a 575% jump in the month to 3.2 million unique visitors,
according to ComScore.

The sites’ growth is one of many contributors to making
NBC Sports Group the seventh-largest Internet sports
outlet. Last month, NBC Sports’ digital properties tallied
14.8 million unique visitors, up 67% from
April 2011; a 129% jump to 84.2 million
visits; and a 146% rise to 372 million page
views.

Grilly said he’s further encouraged because
the RSN sites are only beginning to
become integrated with
the other digital properties.

Prior to Grilly’s arrival
from Philly.com, where
he served as president of
the website for the Philadelphia
Inquirer
and
the Philadelphia Daily
News
, in June 2009,
Comcast RSN sites had
been little more than
repositories for team
schedules, talent bios,
job information and
some club stats.

Comcast and Grilly
began driving a more
agg ressive digital
course in January 2010.

The initial focus was on Comcast
SportsNet Philadelphia. From there, the push moved to
the aforementioned RSNs.

Grilly’s group, in many cases, hired sports writers from
local newspapers and flanked them with other talent and
multimedia resources.

“We have one digital insider per team in each market
and work in conjunction with the RSN to develop the best
news gathering teams possible,” he said, noting the group
is only in its second full year of operation.

Currently, the group has about 80 employees, including
20 at the corporate level, who provide systems,
technical, production, administrative
and best-practices support,
with the balance working
in the field.

EXPANDING JOBS

With a new RSN set to launch in
Houston this October, and given
platform advances, Grilly expects
to hire additional staff.

“Social media is driving almost
the same level of traffic to the sites
as search engines, while mobile is
accounting for about 30%,” Grilly
noted.

In the meantime, the sites aim
to continue producing quality
content to drive ad revenue. Selling
in conjunction with the RSNs,
the sites currently sport such topflight advertisers as Ford, Toyota,
AT&T and Geico.

“Sports fans and advertisers are finding [the sites] are
places to visit for strong reporting and original stories,”
Grilly said. “We’ve been able to monetize them locally and
have about an 80% retention rate with clients.”

September