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Gannett Goes Long With Acquisition Of Fantasy Sports Ventures

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Gannett (NYSE: GCI) Co. has bought The Big Lead and a family of other sports blogs. The company hopes the acquisition, when combined with its existing USA Today properties, will vault it into the major leagues of the online sports scene.

Gannett did not disclose the purchase price for Fantasy Sports Ventures, a property in which it acquired a minority share in 2008. But a 2010 report valued the company’s flagship site, The Big Lead, in the “low seven figures.”

Sports properties are hot items these days as a series of upstarts have emerged to challenge the 800-pound gorillas in the vertical, ESPN (NYSE: DIS) and Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Sports. The most successful new players include SB Nation and Bleacher Report, sites that rely heavily on local, often-unpaid contributors who are obsessed with individual teams and topics. The popularity of the sites suggests that sports readers are not put off by amateur or opinion-based reporting.

On its website, Big Lead Sports claims it was fourth in comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) sports rankings in July of 2010 with 17 million unique visitors. In its announcement, Gannett claims that all of the Fantasy League Ventures blogs — which cut across all major sports — received 19 million unique visitors.

Gannett says the combined property will place it into the top five of digital sports properties. The claim appears reliable based on this recent AdAge report which list USA Today’s Sports Media Group as the ninth most popular property with about 11 million unique views.

The acquisition is also a shrewd play for Gannett because it gives the company a big toehold into fantasy sports. The new property reportedly has 500,000 subscribers in a growing market that fantasy business site Rotobiz claims has 32 million participants.

More details about the acquisition can be found in the company’s press release.