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CBS Bets Fantasy Sports Fans Will Pay for a New Site With an Old Name

Remember SportsLine? It's back, with a focus on fantasy sports.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

It’s hard to get people to pay to use websites. It’s easier, for now, to get them to pay for TV.

So here’s a compromise that could work: CBS is launching a new sports site, and hopes people will pay $10 a month to use it.

You can visit CBS’s new SportsLine for free, but the network thinks you’ll want to pay up for full access to the site and its stats-heavy approach to sports, which emphasizes picks, projections, analysis and all sorts of things that look like they involve math.

Not included (for now): Stories about things a famous athlete said on Twitter, pictures of famous athletes’ girlfriends, or any other kind of sports content that doesn’t have data-driven blinders on. SportsLine, says Jeff Gerttula, who heads up sports for the network’s digital group, is “about what’s going on on the field, who’s going to win, and why.”

If you have a long memory (by digital standards), you’ll remember that SportsLine’s heritage dates back to the very early days of the Web. The site used to be a standalone — and public — company, then faltered after the first bubble burst. CBS (then part of Viacom) acquired the site in 2004, and eventually stopped using the SportsLine brand.

Now, CBS wants to bring it back, targeting a mix of people who want to know who’s going to win and how they’ll do it: Fantasy sports players (, the network’s primary sports site, runs a relatively large fantasy sports business), Nate Silveresque sports-stats fans and good old sports gamblers.

It’s also not a coincidence that CBS is launching the site amidst a boom for “daily fantasy” sports games run by DraftKings and FanDuel; a bunch of SportsLine real estate is devoted to helping players improve their odds in those games.

CBS itself is dipping its toe into the daily fantasy arena with its own version of the games, featuring lower entry fees and smaller prize pools than the big guys do. But Gerttula says that’s not the emphasis of the site, and in any case, CBS already makes money from daily fantasy via FanDuel, which has a marketing deal with the network.

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