Cricket this summer via WebCentral

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Managed hosting company WebCentral has signed a contract with Cricket Australia, replacing incumbent ninemsn when the latter's five-year deal expired.

Managed hosting company WebCentral has signed a contract with Cricket Australia, replacing incumbent ninemsn when the latter's five-year deal expired.

Andrew Twaits, general manager of legal and business affairs at cricketing organisation Cricket Australia, said the national cricket body's internet rights agreement with previous service provider ninemsn had finished 31 March.

The relationship with that company -- a member of the Packers' large media conglomerate PBL -- was good but Cricket Australia felt its interests would be more strategically served by WebCentral, he said.

Ninemsn's popular cricket website baggygreen.com.au -- claimed as the top summer sporting website in Australia -- would likely continue but under a different name, he said.

 Last summer, baggygreen.com.au had 450,100 to 670,500 unique users a month from December to March, with average session durations of 16 minutes and 50 seconds to 25 minutes and 30 seconds, Twaits said.

"WebCentral is going to host our site, cricket.com.au," he said. "Ninemsn will continue to offer a more commercial website with a lot more branding."

Twaits said the new, WebCentral-hosted cricket website would target "the Australian cricket fan" more directly. It would contain a lot less commercial content aimed at a general audience, he said.

Further, delivery of live scores would be improved. "The new site will be much more data-efficient. It will have less of a drain on servers and the office environment of our stakeholders," Twaits said.

Between 25 and 50 percent of the offices in Australia might have banned baggygreen.com.au because it tended to crash servers, due to inefficient data processing, he said.

"Also, we plan to have deeper coverage of Australian cricket, through news content we cover ourselves," Twaits said.

Cricket Australia had also been impressed by the breadth of WebCentral's service offering and the talent in its team. However, at this stage it had not been decided whether to take on any of the service offerings, he said.

"I wouldn't want to say it was just financial, although they put forward an aggressive bid for our business. We were impressed with their expertise and experience in the sporting industry and we thought we could really work with their people," Twaits said.

Cricket Australia netted nearly $100 million in revenue a year and had 60 people. It was particularly important for such a small company to consider whether a business partner's people would get along with one's own staff, he said.

WebCentral had a number of "interesting" products, he said, such as an Outlook-based SMS service. SMS had definite potential for community cricket. For example, small teams ringing around to find players or helpers for a Saturday afternoon match would be able to use the service to simplify the process, Twaits said.

Cricket Australia brought together six state associations under one banner representing some 5000 cricket clubs across Australia, he said.

Andrew Spicer, CEO at WebCentral, said sports fans were increasingly using the internet to keep track of news and results.

WebCentral's managed hosting architecture would harness a Vignette content management system, Tomcat application server, Apache web server, SQL Server database, a Verity search server and WebCentral's own SAN and back-up. Dual firewalls would be used in failover configuration.

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