Time Warner Said to Buy Bleacher Report for Under $200M

Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting System division, bolstering its online sports coverage, acquired the Bleacher Report website for less than $200 million, a person familiar with the deal said.

The acquisition was confirmed by both companies in a statement today, following its approval by the Federal Trade Commission last week. The person with knowledge of the transaction asked not to be identified because the financial terms aren’t being disclosed.

Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, which owns the cable networks TNT, TBS and CNN, is trying to capitalize on its sports programming by expanding online. The broadcaster recently agreed to a $10.8 billion rights deal with CBS Corp. to broadcast NCAA college basketball games. Bleacher Report will play an important role in that event, both with editorial coverage and advertising opportunities, according to David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for Turner.

“We have a portfolio of sports offerings at Turner, and this reflects our continuing commitment to bring content across screens,” Levy said in an interview.

Turner had managed ad sales for sister company Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated website, though that effort ended last year. Turner continues to oversee the, and websites.

Better Fit

“Managing Sports Illustrated’s online ad sales -- honestly, we gave a run at it, and ultimately we found it was better off for both cultures to go at it in different directions,” Levy said. “We found that Bleacher Report fits more in line with Turner’s culture.”

The two companies have been talking about a merger for more than six months, Levy said.

Bleacher Report, founded in 2006, has about 10 million visitors a month and gets its content from more than 6,000 contributors -- most of whom write for free -- who churn out more than 1,000 articles a day. The San Francisco-based startup, run by Chief Executive Officer Brian Grey, has raised about $40 million in venture capital.

The deal lets Bleacher Report “take advantage of all the assets and expertise that Turner Sports has,” Grey said in an interview. The startup may increase its current full-time staff of 135 and start taking Turner’s library of sports clips and stream them online.

Founders of the company, including Bryan Goldberg, Dave Finocchio and Dave Nemetz, will remain at Bleacher Report, Grey said.

Grey, formerly a general manager of News Corp.’s Fox Sports Interactive Media, will stay on as CEO, with the added title of senior vice president at Turner Sports.

(Updates with executive’s comments in fourth paragraph.)
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