NGN relaunches thesun.co.uk to become top UK sports site

News Group Newspapers has pledged to turn The Sun's website into the number one online destination for sports.

The newspaper group is gearing up for a major relaunch in the next few weeks in an attempt to make thesun.co.uk the most popular sports site on the web, according to director of digital strategy Jim Mullen.

The Sun intends to make use of parent company News International's share of the Premier League rights deal. It paid £1.3bn for 92 games last year, applicable from next season.

For the first time, the rights deal spans TV, web and mobile, allowing News International to spread its football footage across its portfolio of sites.

Mullen, speaking at last week's Association of Online Publishers' conference, said: "We've done a lot with our sports channel, but the best is yet to come both through developments in mobile and video. We want to be the number one content provider online."

NI has the capacity to develop its online video proposition through investments made last year.

In December, it paid £96m for 365 Media Group, which houses sports sites including Football365.com, Planet Rugby, Rivals.net, Sportinglife.com and Teamtalk.com, and has a dedicated video property, Sportal.

Last year, Sportal started winning rights contracts, including footage of The Ryder Cup, Rugby Super League and Wimbledon 2006. A further investment came this January, when News International bought a 10% stake in online video provider Roo.

Speaking of The Sun's digital strategy, Mullen admitted the paper's trial of user-generated video had been "difficult to monetise".

In November last year, The Sun launched a user-generated content channel, asking readers to send in video and text messages to a 63000 shortcode.

Mullen hailed the fact that several stories had come from the initiative, but bemoaned the expenses involved. He said: "It's very expensive in terms of bandwidth. I'm still not convinced there's monetisation to be had through user-generated content, but for now we're sticking with it despite it being expensive."

He added that, in addition to the sports revamp, The Sun plans to relaunch its video player and start streaming live content. One of the reasons that The Sun is extending its content is that its advertising inventory is sold out, said Mullen.

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