ITV links with Rivals for football site

ITV is aiming to exploit the popularity of its TV football coverage online, with an overhaul of its football web site.

The broadcaster has dropped Granada as its content partner after three years and has struck a deal with Rivals Digital Media to supply all football-related content.

The relaunched site goes live today (Thursday, June 5) at itv.com/football and will build up gradually to the start of the season in August.

While Rivals and its football offering Football365 are brands in their own right, the site will be solely ITV-branded. Granada Enterprises will continue to sell advertising space on the site.

ITV wants to emulate the success of its Formula One web site. The football relaunch will be promoted extensively to tie in with ITV's coverage of the FA Premiership and the Champions League competitions. The site will expand beyond its present offering of news, pundits and chat forums to provide e-commerce, match betting, a casino and poker room and updates via e-mail, mobile phone and personal digital assistants.

"Consumers will experience a site with deeper, wider content that is much more frequently updated," said head of ITV Online Mark Peatey.

Football365.com is the UK's most popular football site, followed by manutd.com, teamtalk.com and liverpoolfc.tv. It attracted 361,000 unique users in April 2003, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

The Rivals tie builds on ITV Online's deal with ITN for news and the Met Office for weather. It is also preparing to launch a soaps portal via a tie-up with publisher IPC Media for content from What's On TV, TV Times and Soap Life.

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