Vick signs with Eagles and CiL was there

Earlier this week ESPN was getting some kudos in the media for embracing social media thanks to Toronto’s CoverItLive.

For Twitter fans and sports fans alike, the results were promising. ESPN put a link on the front page of to a page featuring a CoverItLive chat, which incorporates tweets from its reporters and other staffers and user submitted comments. This technology is not new – we’ve used it here at Mediaite – but it is ESPN’s first foray into the world of live blogging in this way.

Was it revolutionary? No. But it does show the power of what can happen when the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” combines broadcasting the game on TV, drawing in interested users to its Web property and pulling from its personalities and talent in the social media world for one-stop sports entertainment.

What’s more, it was fun. Neyer was ribbing the Sports Guy, readers were making smart observations picked up in the feed – it was the beginning of what will hopefully be the future of ESPN. And it does a great job to quiet the critics last week.

Today the big news in the sportsworld was the Philidelphia Eagles signing of former dogfighting ringleader Michael Vick. The tech-savvy Eagles streamed the 11am press conference and allowed fans to comment live using CoverItLive (CiL).

Impressed to see a Canadian startup being used by sports media and teams, I checked in with CiL CEO Keith McSpurren to congratulate him and get some feedback.

NFL is a huge category for us because each team is like its own vertical market.  CiL always does well when there is heavy interest/passionate readers and pro football really fits well.  Additionally, it’s an area rich with different perspectives/debates.

In the case of the Eagles, they have been big supporters of CiL since early this year using us as an add on product for their live video Q&A shows.  Although some of those products (ustream, livestream) offer basis chat technologies, they were never built to be a platform like CiL with polls, multimedia and of course, moderation tools that can handle tens of thousands of readers.  Social chat tools were developed for small groups and usually fall short with large publishers/media companies.

We are seeing a trend in sports down to the team level instead of at the league level.  The Detroit Red Wings and Boston Celtics used CiL for their respective playoffs and drove 30-80,000 readers per game for duration levels in excess of 15 minutes/reader.  Duration is our story and i personally feel the growing story online versus pageviews/uniques.

Inmpressive market penetration by CiL – especially considering this teams were self-serve customers – “Both of these customers, like all of our large media companies, were self serve.  Never met them, never pitched them.  Just love them.”

CoverItLive raised $1.2 Million in January from private equity fund Flagstone Capital, well-known investor Paul Kedrosky, and current investors.