|It's 60 Cities Strong!
Sports Web Site Brings Fans More with Addition of Major Markets.
By Dale Meggas
Things have changed for thesportsking.com and that's good. The Web site initiated about three years ago with the idea to bring sports news to Cleveland sports fans with the ease of a mouse click is new and improved over the initial version that grew out of a frustrated search for sports news by Tom Mercadante.
"The idea was to franchise the business," said Mercadante, founder and president of thesportsking.com, which does much of its business live and in front of an audience at The Islander Grille, located in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. That's the location of thesportsking.com's live Webcast shows, which run daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a variety of hosts in a sports-radio format with its access being the Internet rather than the wireless radio receiver.
What makes thesportsking.com different than it was at its inception is that today sports fans from around the world can call up stories on a number of sports in 60 of the largest markets in the United States with just a click.
"I was still thinking of franchising a few major cities at a time until I made a contact out of Wisconsin who said 'Let's just do it now,'" said Mercadante. "We teamed up and are able to have our loyal listeners and others the choice of going from city to city and picking up the biggest stories of the day.
Say a trade in is made in baseball, those on thesportsking.com can get the story from both markets by just going to the right spot on our site. We have the top story, breaking news, columnists, polls, trivia and other things right there," said a beaming Mercadante, who is able to supply much of the information through The Associated Press wire service.
Mercadante, who founded thesportsking.com out of frustration of not getting a Cleveland Indians baseball score on the radio late at night after a business dinner, has seen the change come with a handle on what helped get him started.
He has stayed true to those who were the foundation of the company. "We have had St. Ignatius football broadcasts for four seasons and likewise had the Cleveland Force indoor soccer games for four seasons." he said. "We have to have them. The alumni from St. Ignatius has been very loyal to us and been a strong part of our success, as have the fans of the Force,."
While not in the original business model, Webcast shows like play-by-play of games and talk shows have been very popular on thesportsking.com "We still have our live shows and that all revolves around Tony Rizzo," Mercadante said. "Tony has a great following He is our most popular host and is much of the reason for our success," he added.
For Rizzo, his show on thesportsking.com, airing daily from 10 a.m. to noon, it is a labor of love. "This is a lot of fun," said Rizzo, a longtime friend of Mercadante, dating back to high school. "The stuff we talk about here is what we are probably going to be covering on our network telecast at Fox 8 that night," said Rizzo.
"We get the feel for what the fans are interested in" he added. And be it on-the-screen information without the video or audio presentation of the Webcasts on thesportsking.com, Mercadante has shown to have given Clevelanders and sports fans around the world a place to grab sports tidbits or breaking stories.
"We hear from a lot of displaced Clevelanders," said Mercadante. "They still want to stay close to the Browns, Indians and Cavs and we are able to give it to them for free," he said.
"And the information constantly changes in each and every market. When a story moves from being our top story, it can be found archived under the city that the story pertains to. A story a few days old can still be called up just by going to the city of interest and click on the sport that the story comes under."
And Mercadante has not left out the fan who likes to make a dollar or two on the results of college and professional games. "We have Marc Lawrence's 'Against the Spread' TV handicapping show that is hosted by Tony (Rizzo)," Mercadante said of other features that thesportsking.com offers.
"We also present live broadcasts of college football and basketball games, coach's show's and press conferences for fans anywhere in the country.
What started out more than three years ago with just under 70,000 hits a month, thesportsking.com is now over 8 million hits a month, getting more hits in one day than collected in a complete month back in late 2000.
"As new technology evolves, to include maturing broadband and wireless Internet access with True TV, we are very excited and look forward to embracing our relationships with those people and companies that we do business with now and in the future," added Mercadante, who has come a long way from that night he just couldn't get a baseball score on the radio.