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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FSV buys stake in reference sites

Fantasy Sports Ventures has made an equity investment in Baseball-Reference.com and a set of other sports reference Web sites, the latest outlay for the growing Internet rollup.

Thanks to KJOK for pointing this out to me!

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 17, 2009 at 04:51 PM | 37 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: general

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   1. Repoz Posted: February 17, 2009 at 05:58 PM (#3079067)
Coool! More free Cokes for me!
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:00 PM (#3079070)
Good for Sean, sounds like he got a decent chunk of change, "low seven figures" and maintains control.
   3. McCoy Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:09 PM (#3079084)
Bravo! A rare internet success story
   4. Gamingboy Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:11 PM (#3079087)
I don't care so long as they don't change stuff!
   5. There are a lot of good people in alt-Shooty Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:12 PM (#3079089)
I don't care so long as they don't change stuff!

+1, as the kids say.
   6. Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:24 PM (#3079114)
Congratulations Sean. I hope this is as good for you as it sounds.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:34 PM (#3079133)
I don't care so long as they don't change stuff!
this is usually the first step to them changing stuff, I'm happy for Sean, but fear for baseball-reference.
   8. Sean Forman Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:43 PM (#3079148)
Thank you for the kind words. I've posted some comments on my blog.

BBRef: Blog


this is usually the first step to them changing stuff, I'm happy for Sean, but fear for baseball-reference.


Thank you. You will probably see a few more ads on some pages after the major redesign that was going to happen anyways, but beyond that, we really do control the company, and I'm not going anywhere for a good while.
   9. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:47 PM (#3079153)
Glad to hear it, Sean!
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:49 PM (#3079159)
Thank you. You will probably see a few more ads on some pages after the major redesign that was going to happen anyways, but beyond that, we really do control the company, and I'm not going anywhere for a good while.


And this quote is taken right out of the big changes are coming soon playbook.

Just kidding. Congratulations for much-deserved success.
   11. Jeff K. Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:50 PM (#3079161)
I'm not going anywhere for a good while.

Unless the Mossad agents I have hired do their jobs...you think the Israeli Baseball League can be dismissed so easily?
   12. Sean Forman Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:52 PM (#3079169)
And this quote is taken right out of the big changes are coming soon playbook.


:)
   13. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: February 17, 2009 at 06:57 PM (#3079176)
You will probably see a few more ads on some pages after the major redesign that was going to happen anyways

Adblock Plus says, "bring it on."

TWO!-OH!-OH!-OH! CLAP!-CLAP!-CLAP!CLAP!CLAP! says, "Congratulations, Sean!"
   14. Vance W Posted: February 17, 2009 at 07:13 PM (#3079199)
First time I saw bb.ref I thought it was fantastic. And it just kept getting better. Hope the payout was mighty because it sure was well-deserved.
   15. Foster Posted: February 17, 2009 at 07:26 PM (#3079216)
Congratulations. Well-earned. Go buy yourself something pretty, Sean.
   16. Phenomenal Smith Posted: February 17, 2009 at 08:57 PM (#3079358)
How long until it goes to a subscription model?
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: February 17, 2009 at 09:53 PM (#3079447)
At first I was just hoping that they would take over all the unused sponsorship pages by default, I'm mostly hoping that speed remains the top priority, the simple navigation should also remain, anything added while keeping those two features won't be too unbearable.

I mean I prefer ESPN's sortable stats over BB-reference for seasonal stats, but if I'm not doing anything that requires me to search, I don't even consider ESPN (and I almost never consider MLB for stats, even though they have improved the speed from glacial to slow, their navigation is atrocious, especially when you get to their stat pages--only stat page I consider looking at there is the team page--and even there I prefer bb-ref-- and the roster pages--which nobody else comes close to touching--although again the navigation sucks, you can't just go from torontos 40 man roster to the cardinals 40 man roster unless you know MLB cap sensitive web design so you can change the url directly)
   18. Brian Posted: February 17, 2009 at 09:59 PM (#3079460)
Congratulations Sean, well deserved. Lots cheap real estate and bank stocks out there right now ...
   19. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 17, 2009 at 11:29 PM (#3079549)
It has been absolutely stunning to me that fans/semi-amateurs have been able to put together better statistics websites than every single major sports league. And MiLB is still a joke.
   20. Jeff K. Posted: February 18, 2009 at 12:19 AM (#3079581)
Mitch, that's thanks to the fantasy baseball ruling, or the lack of a negative ruling in that case. Had they won that, the push for extending its impact to past stats related to names would have been the next thing on the agenda, I think.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: February 18, 2009 at 12:44 AM (#3079597)
Remarkably well deserved.

A purist running a site for so long on more passion than payoff (I'll wildly guess), and for the sake of wanting the information to be available for the improvement of baseball research.

I have absolutely no quarrel with someone who sees a business opportunity before anyone else, works the advantage, and makes a killing. That's business, and smart business.

It is an extra enjoyable twist to see it happen for someone who would have (and presumably did for a bit) done it for nothing if need be.
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: February 18, 2009 at 12:53 AM (#3079602)
It is an extra enjoyable twist to see it happen for someone who would have (and presumably did for a bit) done it for nothing if need be.

I would say he actually paid to do it for a while. (all of us say we would pay to play baseball, Sean took that a step further) That is part of the reason why Sean is a folk hero.
Company president and former college math professor Sean Forman has become something of a folk hero to baseball fans for the massive depth of data stretching to the 19th century and for the ease of navigation within Baseball-Reference.com.


He didn't see a profit opportunity (although I wouldn't fault him for thinking that maybe there could be profit in this eventually) and take advantage, he saw something that was missing that shouldn't be during the information age, easy, fast access to the most common baseball stats, and did something about it. He spent his own money for a while (from my understanding) then hit on the sponsorship idea, which was cool, again easy, and non-intrusive (most of the time)

again, my only hope is that it maintains it's high standards (the baseball cube is the only thing remotely as good on the web, and it has fallen off recently)
   23. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 18, 2009 at 01:14 AM (#3079616)
Mitch, that's thanks to the fantasy baseball ruling, or the lack of a negative ruling in that case. Had they won that, the push for extending its impact to past stats related to names would have been the next thing on the agenda, I think.

But Forman was way ahead of that lawsuit and I don't think any legal argument in that controversy would ever come close to challenging a purely statistical website not linked to a fantasy game run for profit.

Try finding historical playoff information on the NFL site. Not very easy.
   24. Howie Menckel Posted: February 18, 2009 at 01:20 AM (#3079624)
To be clear - yes, I assign Mr. Forman the second motive....
   25. Jeff K. Posted: February 18, 2009 at 01:31 AM (#3079640)
Oh, of course Sean was way ahead of that suit, but I don't share your feeling that had they won it, they wouldn't have gone after sites like bbref next. I think they'd have done exactly that.
   26. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 18, 2009 at 01:48 AM (#3079658)
But nothing would have prevented the leagues from producing their own sites. And they failed.

but I don't share your feeling that had they won it, they wouldn't have gone after sites like bbref next. I think they'd have done exactly that.

They would have epically lost. You can pretty much copy the phonebook and reprint it. It's a collection of facts. Facts have no copyright protection and the presentation of facts have only the slightest copyright protection. The argument with fantasy games was that there was an ongoing use of players identities by fantasy sites through their statistics. Simply publishing a fact (player x's obp) is not an infringement.
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: February 18, 2009 at 02:42 AM (#3079689)
um, bump over the Oil Can Boyd or Gagne thread....
   28. McCoy Posted: February 18, 2009 at 02:47 AM (#3079695)
And wouldn't selling sponsorship to player pages be similar enough to enable MLB to file a lawsuit? And would Sean have deep enough pockets that he could afford to weather the blizzard of motions that MLB would hurl at him?
   29. Walt Davis Posted: February 18, 2009 at 06:16 AM (#3079801)
Fantasy Sports Ventures has made an equity investment in Baseball-Reference.com

So how many player pages did they buy? :-)
   30. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 18, 2009 at 02:23 PM (#3079931)
And wouldn't selling sponsorship to player pages be similar enough to enable MLB to file a lawsuit?

No. There is no provision that facts used for profit are somehow protected. The fantasy argument was that the stats had utility for fantasy players only as they were tied to the identities of specific players. The fantasy games used the identities of the players for their benefit. An advertiser wouldn't gain that extra utility from a player's identity that MLB claimed fantasy players improperly used. To say that advertisement in an otherwise protected publication would implicate the advertisement next to a boxscore. MLB never claimed that you could not publish stats, but that a fantasy site cannot setup a system where you can manipulate fantasy "Alex Rodriguez" through his stats and trades because the system infringed on his right of publicity.
   31. McCoy Posted: February 18, 2009 at 05:51 PM (#3080199)
So selling Alex Rodriguez's page isn't similar to selling his stats? Isn't ARod's stats tied to the advertisement of his page on BRef? Isn't selling his page a benefit to BRef? It isn't like BRef was selling space and it would randomly insert the ad. It was pay X for ARod.
   32. Zonk Tormundbane Posted: February 18, 2009 at 06:08 PM (#3080238)
It has been absolutely stunning to me that fans/semi-amateurs have been able to put together better statistics websites than every single major sports league. And MiLB is still a joke.


Absolutely. One of my happiest days in the last decade was when PI came online and I no longer needed to go ESPN.com for splits. My eyes are no longer bleary from dodging mouse seeking flash ads, my carpel tunnel has gone away from navigating the worthless ESPN dropdown menus.... life is good.
   33. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: February 18, 2009 at 06:20 PM (#3080259)
Mitch, that's thanks to the fantasy baseball ruling, or the lack of a negative ruling in that case. Had they won that, the push for extending its impact to past stats related to names would have been the next thing on the agenda, I think.
No.

Oh, of course Sean was way ahead of that suit, but I don't share your feeling that had they won it, they wouldn't have gone after sites like bbref next. I think they'd have done exactly that.
They would not have, both because they had no plausible legal argument for doing so, and because they've never "gone after" anybody. They had always licensed fantasy games, and had never tried to license stats sites. The lawsuit was not MLB trying to "go after" a site that was out there to extract money from it, but rather CDM trying to get out of a license it had signed.
   34. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: February 18, 2009 at 06:21 PM (#3080260)
Nicely done. Does this mean USA Today will start using/quoting things like OBP and OPS as a default, "spreading the Gospel" so to speak?
   35. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: February 18, 2009 at 06:24 PM (#3080265)
And wouldn't selling sponsorship to player pages be similar enough to enable MLB to file a lawsuit? And would Sean have deep enough pockets that he could afford to weather the blizzard of motions that MLB would hurl at him?
Backlasher made that argument; I never thought it was remotely plausible. At worst, it would have forced Sean to slightly change the wording of how he marketed the sponsorship opportunities.

EDIT:
So selling Alex Rodriguez's page isn't similar to selling his stats? Isn't ARod's stats tied to the advertisement of his page on BRef? Isn't selling his page a benefit to BRef? It isn't like BRef was selling space and it would randomly insert the ad. It was pay X for ARod.
As I said, change the wording slightly: it's "pay X to put an ad on his page." (There's no plausible argument, as far as I'm concerned, that putting an ad specifically on one page of bbref violates a right of publicity but putting it "randomly" on a page there doesn't.)

Consider (an analogy I used at the time): A&E has this show called "Biography," where they profile all sorts of celebrities, one per episode. Is A&E violating the right of publicity by airing those shows? No. Is A&E required to sell commercials randomly on those shows? Can Coca-Cola decide that it wants to advertise during Madonna's biography but not Clint Eastwood's? I think so.
   36. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 18, 2009 at 06:31 PM (#3080281)
So selling Alex Rodriguez's page isn't similar to selling his stats? Isn't ARod's stats tied to the advertisement of his page on BRef? Isn't selling his page a benefit to BRef? It isn't like BRef was selling space and it would randomly insert the ad. It was pay X for ARod.

No, because the MLB never came close to claiming that, and as I pointed out, it would end any for-profit publication like reference books or newspapers. bb-ref is simply a listing of stats. MLB's argument was that fantasy games weren't listing stats, they were creating a fantasy "Alex Rodriguez" by combining stats, photos, and the ability to use him in a game, which traded on Alex's right to publicity.
   37. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 18, 2009 at 06:35 PM (#3080287)
Nicely done. Does this mean USA Today will start using/quoting things like OBP and OPS as a default, "spreading the Gospel" so to speak?

From the article:

The company owns eight sites; FSV CEO Chris Russo tells paidContent he expects “to buy several more” and is most interested in sites with unique content and large scale to expand the company’s owned-and-affiliate ad network.

How is baseball reference going to change now that "Mad Dog" is in charge?

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