For the last eight months SI assistant circulation director Chuck Davis has been hard at work on a secret project that has had him baffling his colleagues in the office with technospeak terms like "actualities," "bridgings" and "audio feeds." Now the wraps have come off Davis's baby: The Sports Illustrated Sports Hotline is ready for introduction.
The hotline, which begins operation this week, offers callers the opportunity to become news programmers of a sort. "This is a national, customized, interactive sports phone," says Davis. "You can tell it exactly what information you wish to hear."
After dialing 1-900-988-7777, the caller hears recordings indicating which buttons to push to hear game scores, in-depth reports on specific pro teams (by punching in the first three letters of the team nickname), game recaps, headline news, leaders of statistical categories, or postgame interviews. "The hotline is for everyone," says Davis. "It provides the quick update for the casual fan or the detailed analysis for someone who might like more."
The service will update scores using information provided by Telerate, a Jersey City sports ticker service that employs almost 600 correspondents nationwide. "I sit at home and watch TV sports with a stopwatch," says Davis, "it takes them as little as 60 to 80 seconds to update a score from the time a run crosses the plate."
Davis, 29, knows a thing or two about entrepreneurial sports ventures. At age 13, he created his own publication, Pro Grid Weekly, offering it to customers in his Westport, Conn., neighborhood at 10� an issue. Later, as a student at Brown University, he used a similar format to create Bruin Grid Weekly, a tabloid covering the school's football team, which he sold after his graduation for a sizable profit. Davis joined the SI business staff in 1986 after spending two years with TIME Canada and LIFE.
The charge for using Sports Hotline is 79� a minute; until Sept. 23, a special introductory one-cent first-minute charge will be in effect. "It's the ultimate in sports phone services," says SI's assistant marketing manager, Phil Polishook, who helped Davis on the project. "One call tells it all."