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Thesis Abstract

Despite its widespread use and acceptance, the World Wide Web as yet has failed to produce a consistently profitable revenue model for most site proprietors. Boasting some of the most popular and well-trafficked sites on the Web, the online sports segment typifies this plight. CBS SportsLine, one of the major players in this segment, has lost $29.7 million since 1994, indicating that profitability is a problem even in the highest echelons of the industry.

To determine the role that profitability plays in the decisions of sites offering sports content or marketing products through sports, 158 official and/or legitimate sites in the online sports industry were sent a 39-question survey (by e-mail) designed to gauge opinions about the profitability of sports Web sites. The objectives of this survey were: to take a "snapshot" of the online sports industry to determine the degree to which companies are committed to online sports sites; to identify the revenue models being used by online sports marketers, and to determine the perceived viability of each model; to determine how much online sports sites are earning and spending on the Web, and; to determine if sports marketers believe that the Web offers an opportunity to make a profit, both now and in the future.

Of the 158 sites contacted, 45 completed the survey instrument. The results were compiled in an Excel spreadsheet, and univariate and bivariate analyses were conducted for all 39 questions.

The results of the survey revealed the sites in this segment to be relatively established, highly-trafficked and content-rich despite a general lack of personnel resources. Banner ads were the leading revenue source currently, although sponsorship and underwriting were expected to play larger roles in the future. One-third of the respondents indicated having spent no money promoting their Web sites. Finally, perhaps the most telling revelation was that although nearly two-thirds of the respondents said that profitability was a current goal of their sites, and that nearly all felt that sports sites in general were capable of operating profitably, fewer than half of the respondents indicated that they were operating profitably at the current time.

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