Ravens hope Web snares more customers

Club's members-only page offered at reduced price

November 18, 1999|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' members-only Web page, a pioneering step into cyberspace for a sports franchise that has so far attracted only 400 customers, will be opened up to fans next week at a reduced price in an effort to boost business.

Soon, anyone with Internet service will be able to pay $50 a year and receive Webcasts of team news conferences, online "chats" with players and other services now available only to subscribers of the $20-a-month www.ravenszone.net.

Ravenszone.net and its free sister Web page, www.baltimoreravens.com, were established in April in concert with PSINet Inc., an Internet service provider based in Herndon, Va. The company is also paying to put its name on the Ravens' stadium.

The team and company say they have been pleased with the venture so far.

The free Ravens Web page has been receiving millions of hits a week, said Michael Binko, PSINet senior manager of sports marketing and business development. But ravenszone.net has 400 customers signed up, he said.

PSINet president Harold Wills was quoted in Internet World in February as saying he hoped ravenszone.net would have 30,000 customers within 12 months, establishing it as one of the city's biggest Internet service providers.

Yesterday, Binko said predictions are difficult with a new venture. "It's our first foray into this service. We see an opportunity to expand it," he said.

The idea behind ravenszone.net is for fans to sign up with the Ravens for Internet service instead of with America Online, Erols, Comcast and other companies. For their monthly membership fee, customers receive high-speed Internet service as well as the special Ravens material.

PSINet -- which serves mostly business customers -- provides the Web design and the electronics and the Ravens bring in customers with their marketing machinery. The concept is similar to the "affinity" credit cards marketed by colleges, sports teams and other groups in exchange for a cut of the money made by the card issuer.

Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said the team hopes people trying the new, content-only Web page will be enticed to sign up for the full service package.

The team will begin advertising the new service on Monday and will offer free, 21-day trials through the end of the year.

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