One of the most widely discussed recent events in the online realm has been Turner's acquisition of Bleacher Report. The marriage of a mainstream company with a decidedly new school (and yes, certainly polarizing) portal like Bleacher Report is a landscape-altering transformation for the online sports world. The total impact of the Turner-b/r marriage is unknown this early in the process, but you're beginning to see signs of its implementation. I quite frankly never thought I'd live long enough to hear Marv Albert read promotional spots for Bleacher Report during NBA on TNT games, but alas, here we are.
Another element to Turner's acquisition of Bleacher Report is the partnerships within Turner and Time Warner and more specifically, Sports Illustrated's lengthy relationship with CNN. Beginning in February, CNN's sports content will be provided by Bleacher Report instead of Sports Illustrated. If you go to CNN.com and try to access Sports Illustrated, you are met with this page telling you CNN Sports is changing soon. Visitors are informed of the following:
"Starting in February, CNN Sports will be provided by Bleacher Report.
Bleacher Report is on a mission to revolutionize the way fans learn, think, and talk about their favorite teams. Bleacher Report brings an entertaining experience to every sports consumer where a vibrant community of knowledgeable peers provides insights to everyone who has a passion for sports.
Fans looking for Sports Illustrated.com should bookmark the site to continue to get their favorites."
The relationship between CNN and SI is well established. The pair launched a 24/7 sports television network in 1996, CNN/SI, that lasted until 2002. The Sports Illustrated website has been CNN's sports outlet for many years (the URL sportsillustrated.cnn.com still takes you to SI) and in 2010, Time Warner consolidated Turner Sports and Sports Illustrated. However, the full-blown Turner/SI partnership never panned out and it ended soon after. All Things D noted neither side was ever truly happy with the arranged marriage.
The corporate structure is a bit complicated, but the Time Warner conglomerate owns both Turner Broadcasting and Time Inc. Sports Illustrated falls under the Time umbrella while Turner Sports and CNN fall under Turner Broadcasting. Both sides though are part of the larger Time Warner family. When Turner's partnership with SI.com ended, they quickly acquired Bleacher Report, which is now part of Turner Sports.
To summarize, it no longer makes sense for CNN to be linked with Sports Illustrated (Turner-Time Warner) instead of Bleacher Report (both Turner Broadacsting properties). Given the history of the CNN/SI network and their lengthy online partnership, this is a huge transformation and the end of an era. Case in point, after Monday night's national championship game, Alabama's victory was CNN.com's featured story.
Where did the "full story" link to? A Bleacher Report article that listed tweets from the likes of Not Bill Walton, LeBron James, and Kate Upton. Already, that b/r article has over 130k views as of Tuesday morning.
We reached out to Turner for comment on the shift taking place at CNN. While their relationship with Sports Illustrated isn't coming to a total end, the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in News" is going forward with Bleacher Report as "the source for CNN.com's sports coverage"…
"While CNN.com and SI.com will continue to look for ways to develop potential multiplatform content strategies for consumers, league partners and advertisers, Bleacher Report will soon become the source for CNN.com's sports coverage. In August 2012, Turner Broadcasting acquired Bleacher Report because it adds a strong and complementary asset to Turner's portfolio of leading brands and businesses. Pairing the site’s multi-sport expertise and unique approach to sports coverage with CNN.com, the leading choice for digital news consumers, is a natural fit that will enhance the multi-perspective reporting that CNN users have come to expect. Since the acquisition, we have been working on the strategic integration of Bleacher Report with the other leading brands within our portfolio, and this illustrates the first step in that process."
This is a sea change in the industry. CNN, one of the most famous names in all of broadcasting, is moving forward with a totally new perspective from Bleacher Report. While what's happening at CNN.com is certainly newsworthy, it's just the beginning of the larger scale integration of Bleacher Report across Turner Broadcasting. Turner also added that their sports department and Sports Illustrated "are always looking for ways to further work together" in spite of CNN's embracing of Bleacher Report at the apparent expense of SI.
In truth, you couldn't have two more opposing poles of the sports media than Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report. The old and the new, representatives of the print and digital age, etc. This tectonic shift taking place at CNN.com and the beginning stages of Bleacher Report's integration with Turner Sports is symbolic of the sports media world as a whole at the current moment. CNN.com's imminent change of course from Sports Illustrated to Bleacher Report may just be the biggest sign of all that the sports world has gone digital and entered a new age.