It's a nice surprise to bump into a veteran Internet entrepreneur who's back in the arena again to innovate in a field he's already had success in.
Mike Levy started CBS SportsLine back in 1994. Since I began covering Internet companies at my former employer MarketWatch back in 1999, I followed his rise and exit. Here's an interview about the convoluted and rocky relationship SportsLine had with CBS.
In 1998, Levy was on the cover of a Forbes magazine titled "Masters of the new universe." Among that class of Internet entrepreneurs who received that recognition (and were on the front page) were Yahoo's Jerry Yang, Amazon's Jeff Bezo, CNet's Halsey Minor, Onsale's Jerry Kaplan and USWeb's Joe Firmage. A lot of these men (no women were selected), have moved on to other ventures. So did Levy.
After selling SportsLine to Viacom, which already owned 38%, in 2004, Levy retired.
"By next fall, we’ll have the best site out there," he predicted, suggesting SportsLine has failed to innovate and few contenders really stand in his way. Levy and I bumped into each other at the AlwaysOn OnMedia conference, held in Manhattan last week.
How is this different from SportsLine? I asked.
"Fantasy content will be tremendously better," he said. "It’s an open-network designed to promote user input, RSS feeds. We’ll create open APIs. We’re opening the world of sports to the user."
Levy plans to take a page from his own playbook by leveraging big media. With SportsLine, Levy found CBS to back him up. This time around, Levy is setting his sights on other traditional media companies with little traction in online sports. "There’s opportunity to work with other networks besides CBS and ESPN," he said.
The other networks have fallen behind in online sports, he added. “I think they’re starting they’ll realize that."
Levy said he's in the market to raise another $10 million in funds. Will he find a strategic investor in the big media outlets? I asked. He'll definitely give it a shot, he suggested.
“I’m confident a deal will take place.”