There are plenty of online sports video ventures out there, but 120 Sports has always been an unusual one since its June 2014 launch thanks to its ownership being made up of heavyweights (Sports Illustrated/Time Inc., MLB, NASCAR, NBA, NHL, PGA Tour and Campus Insiders), its focus on two-minute segments, its ability to cut into live highlights and the amount of continuous live programming it’s been airing (a big change from most online video, which focuses on specific segments rather than having the cameras rolling for continuous TV-like shows). It seems that model isn’t working so well to date, though, as Danny Ecker of Chicago Business wrote this week that the company has made significant cuts to its production staff and is altering its focus:

A West Loop digital media network owned by major pro sports leagues and a Chicago White Sox offshoot cut 15 to 20 percent of its staff this week and reduced live programming.

120 Sports, an online network launched in 2014 as a hub for commentary and highlights, laid off more than 20 employees on its production staff and reduced its live show time to seven hours a day from the previous 12.

Since last summer, the network has broadcast live online one morning show from 7 to 9 a.m., a midday show from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and an eight-hour live block from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Under its new format, which began tonight, the morning show will extend to 10 a.m., but the midday show will be cut. The evening broadcast now begins at 9 p.m.

Show advertisers have stuck with the network during its first 18 months, 120 Sports President Jason Coyle said, but viewership during the midday and evening shows was not as high as expected.

“We weren’t getting the appropriate return on what we were investing,” Coyle said. “We thought those resources should be better directed toward creating content all day long and expanding (on-demand video on) Saturday and Sunday. The morning and the late night are bigger-viewed and better opportunities for us.”

120 Sports is an interesting idea; much of its programming is essentially the equivalent of highlights shows such as SportsCenter or Fox Sports Live, featuring both highlights and interviews with various analysts and athletes, but it’s doing this as a standalone online-only entity rather than part of a conventional TV network. They’ve brought in some significant talent, including former ESPN anchor Michael Kim (who’s their lead host), and they’ve produced some solid programming, but it’s hard for them to stand out in the massive universe of streaming sports coverage and content; league backing and the ability to show highlights is one advantage, but the conventional networks’ competitors have that too. So far, it seems like 120 Sports hasn’t made enough of a dent in the marketplace, and that seems to be why they’re changing strategies:

Most of the staff cuts were in production, where fewer people are needed with the reduction in live programming. The company’s headcount after the staff cuts will be around 115, all based at the 120 Sports offices on the former Harpo Studios campus.

Coyle said the network also is redirecting some of its live-production employees toward creating more video for social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

120 Sports also will relax its rigid commitment to covering topics in two-minute chunks, the origin of the name. Instead the network will produce some shorter and longer segments depending on where they will be shown. “This gives us the format flexibility and financial flexibility to position ourselves to take advantage of the best marketplace opportunities that are out there right now,” Coyle said.

The intent of 120 Sports is to tap into a growing trend of cable TV cord-cutting and cord-shaving, with viewers increasingly opting to watch shows and other content on web-based platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Apple TV.

We’ll see how this redesign goes, but it’s certainly interesting to see a company try to get out in front of stories on their cuts the way 120 Sports appears to have with this Chicago Business story (which appears to be the first reporting of this, and features substantial quotes from Coyle). That raises the question of if what’s been reported so far is the whole story. We’ll likely see in the days to come how significant these cuts were and how 120 Sports’ new programming strategy works out.

If anyone knows more about what’s going on with 120 Sports, e-mail us at

[Chicago Business]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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