Samba TV Partners With Disney, iSpot Acquires Tunity as Networks Prioritize Sports Streaming Measurement

By Andrew Cohen

A pair of streaming audience analysis companies, Samba TV and iSpot, made significant moves this week. Samba TV has partnered with Disney to measure audiences across its platforms, including ESPN and ESPN+, while iSpot acquired Tunity.

Both Samba TV and iSpot serve as digital-focused alternatives to traditional Nielsen ratings, as networks watch their audiences shift from linear to streaming platforms.

Samba’s propriety software is embedded directly into smart TVs to track viewership data, with it currently installed in 46 million devices across 24 partnered smart TV manufacturers, according to Axios. Disney’s EVP of sales Lisa Valentino told Axios that roughly 40% of Disney’s TV advertising inventory is now streaming, with most of that coming via Hulu and ESPN+.

iSpot’s software, meanwhile, can detect when a viewer leaves a screen while an ad is playing and will now have out-of-home measurement app Tunity join its arsenal. Tunity’s mobile app lets users scan a TV to livestream real-time audio, which is especially useful when watching sports in bars and restaurants that normally have muted TVs. The app lets networks track listeners to get a better estimation of how many people gather in a public space to watch a sporting event. 

NBC has an existing multi-year deal with iSpot, which the network used earlier this year to measure audiences and video ad exposure during Super Bowl LVI and the Beijing Olympics. NBC used Tunity during the Tokyo Olympics 

PitchAI, the Phone Camera-Based App to Track Biomechanics, Has New Deal With Kinduct

By Andrew Cohen

Smartphone camera-based biomechanics app PitchAI has a new agreement to make its pitching data viewable in Kinduct, the athlete management system used by more than 550 sports teams. Toronto-based 3MotionAI, the parent company of PitchAI, signed the partnership with Kinduct’s parent company Movella. 

PitchAI’s app can record a user’s throwing motion to provide feedback on their pelvis rotation, elbow extension, internal shoulder rotation and more. The app is the pitching-focused product offered by the broader biomechanics platform ProPlayAI, which was co-founded by Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Nate Pearson

“Optical motion capture labs are costly, require specialized technicians and are not accessible by the masses,” Reed Hanoun, CEO of 3MotionAI, said in a statement. “Our technology puts that kind of analysis on your smartphone, and with Kinduct’s Athlete Management System, athletes will have a one-stop repository of all the information they need for player development and overall performance.”

Kinduct’s dashboard for organizing player performance data is used by teams across MLB and college baseball, as well dozens of NBA, NFL and NHL teams. Movella, an analytics and sensor developer company formally known as mCube, will use its global sales network to further the development of PitchAI. 

Serena Williams’ Venture Capital Fund Raises $111 Million

By Dominic Massimino

Serena Ventures, a VC firm founded by tennis legend Serena Williams, has raised $111 million for its inaugural fund. The firm is building on a nine-year history of angel investing, which included financial tech companies Propel and Cointracker, as well as video education company MasterClass. 

The investment firm has a history of investing in companies with diverse ownership, with 76% of the firm’s portfolio founders coming from underrepresented backgrounds, Serena Ventures says. Williams grew inspired to start Serena Ventures due in part to her realization that the vast majority of venture capital money does not reach female-owned companies, according to the New York Times.

Individually, the 23-time Grand Slam event winner has also recently invested in bitcoin rewards app Lolli and TracFlo, a workflow operations app which won a startup competition held at an HBCU men’s basketball event in December.

BaseballCloud Hires Former MLB Outfielder and Two-Time World Series Champion Jonny Gomes

By Joe Lemire

Former big league outfielder Jonny Gomes has joined BaseballCloud as the tech company’s director of strategic partnerships. 

Gomes played for eight MLB clubs over 13 seasons, winning the World Series with the 2013 Boston Red Sox and 2015 Kansas City Royals. He also won a Caribbean Series while playing in Mexico and finished his career with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. 

Among his responsibilities with BaseballCloud will be growing its international reach and hosting a podcast discussing the role of tech and data in the sport. BaseballCloud acquired optical tracking company YakkerTech last September, adding quality ball tracking data to its analysis and visualization capabilities.  

Yahoo Sports Signs Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero To NIL Deals

By Dominic Massimino

Yahoo Sports has signed college basketball stars Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga University and Paolo Banchero of Duke University as brand ambassadors of the Yahoo Sports Tourney Pick’em March Madness bracket game.

In the first NIL deal to target bracket gaming, Holmgren and Banchero will promote the Pick’em game across their personal social channels throughout March and appear in marketing ads for Yahoo Sports.

Yahoo’s free to play game pays out $25,000 and the chance to win a vacation to an MGM Resort in Las Vegas. Yahoo Sports has an existing relationship with MGM Resorts International to integrate the Yahoo Sportsbook app with BetMGM. 

Holmgren’s Gonzaga Bulldogs and Banchero’s Duke Blue Devils currently stand at #1 and #4 in the AP Top-25. Holmgren and Banchero have 341,000 and 206,000 Instagram followers, respectively. Yahoo Sports was purchased in May by Apollo Global Management for $5 billion. Earlier this week, CNBC reported that Apollo has had discussions with PointsBet to merge the sports betting company with Yahoo Sports.

OneFootball Signs Content Partnership With Argentine Football Association

By Dominic Massimino

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) has signed a deal with soccer editorial site OneFootball to produce original content for the federation. The partnership, which will make all editorial content posted on the AFA website available on OneFootball’s site and app, is the first time a Latin American soccer federation has partnered with OneFootball. 

 OneFootball will offer all of its editorial content—including news, stats and results—in Spanish to make it accessible to Argentinian soccer enthusiasts and will let fans sign up for mobile alerts to receive AFA news. OneFootball, which has more than 100 million monthly visitors, plans to announce further collaborations with the AFA.

To help expand viewership of AFA matches, the federation launched its own streaming app, AFA Play, in 2019.

Professional Fighters League Jumps Into NFT Fray

By Dominic Massimino

The Professional Fighters League (PFL), has announced a partnership with white-label NFT platform creator Mercury to create a branded NFT market for the MMA league.

The PFL, which is the UFC’s primary MMA competitor, is expected to have NFTs available for sale before the opening day of its regular season, April 20. Fans will be able to buy, sell and trade PFL-inspired digital collectibles on the platform using credit cards or cryptocurrency— and will also be able to purchase NFTs of fighters created by Mercury itself. 

“The marketplace will serve as an integral part of the PFL community and accentuates our strategy to leverage blockchain technology to build deeper engagement with our global fanbase,” PFL CEO Peter Murray said in a statement.

The league, targeting an estimated global MMA audience of 550 million fans, has been expanding its sponsorship reach in recent years, signing deals with Sugar23, Socios and DraftKings, among others. Mercury has also made substantial inroads in college athletics, including recent deals with the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program as well as University of Kansas athletics. 

Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott Signs On as Playermaker Brand Ambassador

By Dominic Massimino

Teenage Liverpool winger Harvey Elliott has joined soccer wearable company Playermaker as a brand ambassador. Playermaker’s product uses two small sensors fitted within a silicon strap around a player’s shoes to track various data metrics including acceleration, kick velocity, distance traveled, top speed and left/right balance. 

Playermaker has scored partnerships across countless international soccer leagues, including recent deals with Poland’s Legia Warsaw and Scotland’s Rangers F.C. According to Elliot, his experience with the brand began in his Academy days and continues to this day.

“As a young player, you always want to improve and get better, and Playermaker made that tangible for me – it shows you your progress over time, laid out in the app, and it’s really motivating,” Elliot, 18, said in a statement. 

One of Liverpool’s brightest young stars, Elliott faced criticism following Liverpool’s penalty shootout win over Chelsea Sunday after celebrating with a red flare — pyrotechnics are banned in English football stadiums.

NYCFC Steers Electric Car Push, Partners With EV Charging Station Developer FLO

By Andrew Cohen

Electric vehicle charging station company FLO has partnered with New York City FC. The deal with the MLS club marks the first major U.S. sports partnership for FLO, which is based in Quebec.

FLO began installing public EV charging stations in New York City last year. The company has plans to add 100 more curbside chargers across the city’s five boroughs in partnership with Con Edison and the NYC Department of Transportation.

“It is our intent to see how we can work with the different stakeholders involved to increase the availability of EV charging infrastructure, both at and near the stadiums where NYCFC plays home games. We feel that there are opportunities to offer EV charging, both at the public level on the curb and within private parking lots,” Chris Thorson, FLO’s VP and CMO, said in a statement to SportTechie.

NYCFC, which won last year’s MLS Cup, is splitting its home matches this season between Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, Citi Field in Queens and Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. In December, NYC mayor Eric Adams told the New York Post that he’d engage in discussions to build a soccer-specific stadium for NYCFC. 

Electric car chargers have yet to become an on-site accommodation at sports venues. However, one of the industry’s biggest stars Tom Brady has appeared in ads that promote Tesla, the world’s biggest EV manufacturer, through his partnership with Hertz. 

Sponsorship Valuation Company Trajektory Launches With NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS Team Partners

By Dominic Massimino

Sports sponsorship analytics platform Trajektory announced its launch on Wednesday. The company’s initial team partners include the Chicago Bears, Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Union. 

 Trajektory’s Partner Intelligence software analyzes engagement data from social media, broadcast, radio, in-game digital signage, email, apps and web activations to measure sponsorship value. The platform produces reports with data visualization that rank a team’s top performing sponsorship campaigns.  

 Franchises from six professional leagues currently work with Trajektory. The company is based in Chicago and was founded by Alex Kerr, a former director of business intelligence at Monumental Sports & Entertainment. 

Live Sports Prediction Startup nVenue Raises $3.5 Million

By Joe Lemire

In-game predictive analytics provider nVenue has closed a $3.5 million seed round co-led by KB Partners and Corazon Capital. nVenue is a graduate of Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator’s inaugural cohort in 2021. 

nVenue uses machine learning algorithms that draw on historical statistics and live game data to generate probabilities for the next on-field action. Its NextPlay API data feed is available for sportsbooks and broadcasters to create micro-betting markets and data-driven content. nVenue currently provides these analytics for MLB and NFL action, but will use the investment to expand to new sports. 

Following its time in Comcast’s accelerator, which pairs startups with industry partners, nVenue collaborated with NBC Sports to debut its technology during a live broadcast of a White Sox-Athletics game on Oakland’s regional sports network. Founded in 2018, nVenue is led by CEO Kelly Pracht, a former Hewlett Packard Enterprises executive. 

KB Partners is an early-stage fund specializing in the sports tech industry. One of the managing directors at Corazon Capital is Sam Yagan, the former CEO of ShopRunner and OkCupid who spoke at Horizon Summit in 2020, the conference co-produced by SportTechie and the San Francisco 49ers.