SportsYA Hits $15M Home Run

While not quite as disparate as the payrolls of the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins, inequality has still been one of the sports content-based Internet industry’s most conspicuous characteristics. After all, start-up sites face some pretty daunting odds when compared to branded portals like ESPN.com or Foxsports.com.

However, last week relative unknown SportsYA got a home-run-sized boost when it completed a $15 million private equity round led by IMG/Chase Sports Capital. Other investors in the Spanish-language site’s second round funding included New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, Flatiron Partners, Chase Capital Partners and Ventech LLC.

“Everybody wanted to buy this company… so we’re very fortunate to be the only new institutional investor,” said David Moross, managing partner at Sports Capital. “Chase and Flatiron had already invested in SportsYA, and we really got great insight from them.”

Sports Capital’s $10 million participation in the deal is expected to give the venture fund just north of a 10% equity stake in the issuer.

“Most of the money we just raised will go toward content development,” said SportsYA Chief Executive Emilio Romano. “The Internet has expanded the amount of available sports information so much that superior content is the main thing we need to set us apart.”

One of the strategies for a Web site striving to achieve superiority, of course, is for it to offer exclusive content.

SportsYA is hoping to glean such materials from a strategic partnership recently signed with IMG, a leading sports management and marketing agency, and a partner in the Sports Capital fund. In addition to being able to access IMG’s impressive stable of professional athletes, SportsYA will have exclusive Internet rights to the products of IMG subsidiary and leading television sports programmer TransWorld International Interactive Inc.

Finally, the agreement with IMG calls for the two companies to co-invest in select international sports media ventures.

SportsYA operates a Spanish-language sports content site serving the Latin American, Spanish, and U.S. Hispanic markets. It is also in the process of expanding service to Brazil via a Portuguese-language site.

“We looked at Latin America as a very fertile territory for something like SportsYA because the region has such an insatiable appetite for sports content,” said Sports Capital’s Moross. “But this is a real media play, not an e-commerce deal.”

Sports Capital’s investment in SportsYA is a natural progression from the fund’s recent venture capital participation with Sports.com, a European-themed sports content site. Moross also mentioned that he was now looking for similar opportunities in Asia.

SportsYA has no immediate plans for an additional round of venture funding, instead choosing to concentrate on growing its business through what it has already raised.