SPORTS GAMBLE: Time Inc. may be in the process of cutting costs and laying-off staff in preparation for its spin-off from parent company Time Warner this spring, but that didn’t stop it from investing in a new venture. The publishing company said Thursday that it has taken a “significant equity stake” in 120 Sports, a digital-only, sports-video programming network that will be launched in the spring. Other partners include MLB Advanced Media, NASCAR, the National Hockey League and Silver Chalice, a Chicago-based digital-video production company. Time Inc. did not disclose the specifics of its investment in the endeavor.

This story first appeared in the February 21, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Essentially, 120 Sports will function as a digital-only news show, which will live-stream sports content and analysis in 120-second segments via video to tablet, mobile and Web. Newscasts can be watched on demand as well. Content will come from Major League Baseball, NHL, the National Basketball Association and other partners, but not the National Football League, which is launching its own live Internet video product called “NFL Now” later this year. According to 120 Sports, content will be produced at its renovated facility on the campus of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios in Chicago.

Despite the fancy facility and the big names behind the venture, none of this sounds particularly revolutionary.

Indeed, most sports-centric sites already have live-streamed content available on multiplatforms — even Sports Illustrated, which is owned by Time Inc., has such capability. That could make grabbing share from competitors such as ESPN a tall order.

But the executives behind the deal repeatedly told journalists on a conference call Thursday that the “exciting” venture is “different” because content is produced solely for a digital audience, meaning, at the very least, it will be produced quicker.

Time Inc. executive vice president Todd Larsen echoed that and said the investment would “play an important role” for Sports Illustrated, as the publication can “leverage” the content to advertisers and on third-party sites.

“We do a lot of video at Time Inc., and specifically at SI. Video is really an important part of where we are going as a company,” Larsen said. “From a sales perspective, we’re selling more scale to our advertisers. It’s strategically relevant for Time Inc.”

He offered that both Silver Chalice and SI’s national sales organizations would spearhead all sales and marketing. He added that SI would contribute content to 120 Sports and link to it from its site.

“It’s not a melding [of SI and 120 Sports] but a strong partnership,” he said. “We expect this to be a very heavily trafficked site. It provides a great boost for Time Inc.”

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