Former AOL Exec Raises Funding For Sports Blogs Network

Former AOL executive vice president of consumer and publisher services Jim Bankoff has secured a “mid-seven-figure sum” of venture capital for SB Nation, a startup network of sports blogs. We already mentioned this briefly in an earlier post on competitor Bleacher Report raising $3.5 million, but it’s worth taking a closer look.

The round of funding was led by Accel Partners, the Silicon Valley private equity firm best known for its backing of Facebook, and joined by Allen & Co as well as a number of digital media executives and angel investors. SportsBusinessJournal got the scoop and features the complete list of investors.

SB Nation (short for SportsBlogs Nation) operates with a network model, in which more than 150 local, team-based sites are linked together with a common visual template but remain written and programmed by local writers. Rather than strike affiliate relationships or simply represent sites for national ad sales, Bankoff has structured equity swaps for each of the sites in SB Nation in which the company acquires all the content, URLs and related assets, and the bloggers then share the ad revenue.

The SB Nation sites are said to be generating more than 2 million unique visitors a month combined, according to internal metrics. Looking at the Quantcast and Compete stats, the actual figures seem to be lower but definitely growing. Update: as correctly pointed out by SB Nation employees in comments, those numbers only reflect the main domain name, not the aggregate of all network sites.

Bankoff will serve as chairman for the company. Tyler Bleszinski, whose five-year-old Athletics Nation blog in Oakland was a building block for SB Nation, will remain president of the company. He has this to say about the news:

Yes, the humble company that I started back in November of 2003 (AN will be five years old in just nine days) has blossomed into a thriving new media company with funding. I’m very thankful and lucky to be associated with the quality of people and blogs that we have here.

We’re still trying to find out the actual amount of funding that was raised.