In volatile sports media landscape, Bleacher Report sees path to relevance

(Reuters) - Bleacher Report debuted a new look on Wednesday as the digital sports site owned by Time Warner Inc’s Turner Broadcasting System unit pitches itself to advertisers as the top place for the elusive young male audience.

A woman walks past the Time Warner Center near Columbus Circle in Manhattan, New York July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Of Bleacher Report’s audience of 250 million across its social platforms, 80 percent are under the age of 34, the company said. According to a report issued on Wednesday by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, advertising on social media increased by 50 percent in 2016 to $16.3 billion from $10.9 billion in 2015.

When it comes to digital advertising, most brands pour money into either Facebook Inc or Alphabet Inc’s Google.

But reaching younger consumers, who do not respond as enthusiastically to traditional forms of advertising, takes more than simply putting a commercial in front of them, said Bleacher Report Chief Executive Officer Dave Finocchio.

Bleacher Report believes it can help shape advertiser’s strategies in reaching young men, who are not tuning into sports content on television as much as they did in the past.

“It’s the hardest demographic to get to listen to you,” said Finocchio.

Young men are opting for online video and short clips on their mobile devices, which is what Bleacher Report specializes in, he added..

On May 4, Bleacher Report will be part of Turner’s presentation for advertisers at the Digital Content NewFronts, a two-week marketplace where websites like YouTube and Hulu try to sell the bulk of their advertising inventory, similar to the TV industry’s upfronts.

The redesigned site, which has a new logo and mobile app, will also start running its second-ever TV commercial on Wednesday during the National Basketball Association playoffs, which air on Time Warner’s TNT channel, as well as this weekend’s National Football League Draft on ESPN and NFL Network.

Advertisers have been spending heavily for commercials during live sporting events, but fewer and fewer viewers are tuning in.

“The way younger consumers view sports has changed,” Finocchio said. This has hurt the leading sports channel, Walt Disney Co’s ESPN, he said.

ESPN, which said on Wednesday it was laying off as many as 100 staffers, has lost more than 1 million subscribers since the start of the year, according to Nielsen, and it faces increasing costs for sports rights.

Reporting by Tim Baysinger; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn