Net Notebook: ESPN Loses Phillips

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ESPN Internet Ventures announced Thursday that Tom Phillips, president and general manager of ESPN, will be leaving the company. Geoff Reiss, currently a senior vice president of production and programming, will immediately assume Phillips' responsibilities as acting general manager.

Phillips, 42, was also president of

ABC Sports Online

. He had joined Bellevue, Wash.-based

Starwave

five years ago as vice president of sports, but moved to New York after

Disney

(DIS) - Get Report

took a controlling interest in Starwave. (Starwave provides Web site technology for

TheStreet.com

.)

Reiss didn't want to comment yet on the personnel move, and referred all questions to the outfit's public relations arm.

"We have no comment, other than to say that Reiss' new title will be acting general manager," said the spokesman, who added that he didn't know where Phillips was going next.

Let's Rumble

The online sports battle is getting personal. For the first time, CBS SportsLine is taking on its main rival, ESPN.com, a unit of Disney, through a series of print advertisements, according to a CBS SportsLine spokesperson. (ESPN.com recently changed its name from ESPN SportsZone.)

"Move over and let the big dog eat," one SportsLine fan named Mark Mariani is quoted as saying in an ad for CBS SportsLine in this week's

SportsBusiness Journal

. The rivalry has heated up to a feverish pitch this fall thanks to the re-emergence of

Fox's

sports site, the start of the football season and the second-by-second

McGwire-Sosa

updates from each site. ESPN.com gloated that it had posted its story on McGwire's 62nd home run by the time the

St. Louis Cardinals

slugger "was rounding third base."

The three sites have plenty of influence on gridiron fans because of their affiliations with different television channels. ESPN.com has

ESPN's Sunday Night Football

and

ABC's Monday Night Football

; CBS SportsLine receives plugs on CBS during American Football Conference games (CBS Sports owns an 11% stake in CBS SportsLine); and Fox receives tie-ins from Fox Sports' National Football Conference telecasts. ESPN.com and CBS SportsLine are neck 'n neck for the top online spot, while Fox is way behind third place

CNN/SI

, a unit of

Time Warner

(TWX)

.

For the month of August, CNN/SI had 1.9 million unique users, while Fox Sports only had 435,000 visitors, according to

Media Metrix

, a New York-based online media tracker.

Virtual Village No More

The Internet may be akin to a global village, but when it comes to Web sites, people from different ends of the country don't always circulate in the same virtual neighborhoods.

That's the conclusion you can draw from looking at recent data from

RelevantKnowledge

, one of the companies that tracks visitors' travels across the World Wide Web. When you compare the habits of Web surfers from the West Coast with those in the Northeast, you can find significant differences in where each group goes. And it's not just the obvious, geography-specific ones like New York Sidewalk or the California state Web site.

Look at the

Weather Channel's

Weather.com site, for example. Across the country, 8.6% of people surfing the Web in August visited the site at least once. In RelevantKnowledge's "North Atlantic" region, 13.4% of the population visited. But in the "Pacific" region, only a third of that number made the trip. Makes sense if you have sunny weather all year-round. A Weather Channel spokeswoman says the geographic difference could be explained by the East Coast's concern over August's hurricanes Bonnie and Danielle .

It also appears that people on the East Coast have a greater interest in figuring out where they're going to in the real world. MapQuest, the map and travel site, is nearly twice as popular on the East Coast as on the West. Same for the Preview Travel and Travelocity sites, which enjoy more visits from the East than the West.

Search engines are more popular in the East than in the West, except for Wired's HotBot and San Mateo, Calif.-based

InfoSeek

(SEEK)

.

But the hardest to figure out are why both

Netscape

(NSCP)

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

are significantly more popular in the Northeast than they are in the West. Microsoft's site, microsoft.com, attracts 44.7% of easterners versus 32.3% of West Coasters. Netscape.com has similarly lopsided figures.

Anyone with a clue why -- especially since visitors to

America Online's

(AOL)

aol.com are evenly spread -- please e-mail us a clue.