Summary:

A small but significant acquisition for Disney-owned sports network ESPN: it is buying Australian company ExtraCorp Pty. Ltd, owners of the…

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A small but significant acquisition for Disney-owned sports network ESPN: it is buying Australian company ExtraCorp Pty. Ltd, owners of the fantasy league and sports tipping site footytips. The deal gives ESPN (NYSE: DIS) a leg up in the world of sporting social media, specifically helping it grow in sports-mad Australia. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Although footytips is focused on the Australian market, it covers both domestic and international leagues. They include the Australian Football League, the country’s National Rugby League (the two most popular sports); and also the Rugby World Cup, the UK’s Premier football league, Australia’s A soccer league, the European Champions league, Aussie cricket, SuperRugby, NBL and the NFL.

The tipping activities on footytips involve groups of co-workers, family or friends coming together and making picks (or “tips”) about who will win various sporting competitions and competing to see who has the most correct tips.

They are not related in any direct way to betting — and a spokesperson tells us ESPN has no plans to introduce gambling — but what they do bring to the table is very sticky services, which are always attractive to online advertisers.

The spokesperson says that on average people visit the site more than five times each week, via computers and mobile devices. That’s compared to other tipping sites where users often simply submit the tips once a week. The spokesperson notes that offers “good value from an advertising standpoint.”

The acquisition will also include a number of mobile apps — 10 in total — which have had nearly 750,000 downloads since launch, with one in three visits to footytips now being made via mobile.

In the near term, the deal is mainly about ESPN building out more localized services, in this instance in Australia and New Zealand. (We’ve seen local efforts in other markets, like the UK.)

Longer term, the spokesperson notes that ESPN will also use the route to introduce the local audience to other sports in the ESPN network; and it might export some of its Aussie social media services into other markets, too.

ExtraCorp currently employs 15 people, who all become part of the ESPN team in Australia.

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