NBC Sports Next Boosts Streaming Efforts by Acquiring Rapid Replay

By David Rumsey

NBC Sports Next has acquired youth and amateur sports streamer Rapid Replay to continue boosting its SportsEngine HQ service around recreational sports.

Rapid Replay provides video tools for live streaming, post-production, and highlight distribution to high schools, leagues, coaches, parents, athletes, and tournament operators.

Rapid Replay will continue to operate independently with integration efforts planned for 2023. Rapid Replay employees will then fall under the NBC Sports Next banner. The deal marks Comcast NBCUniversal’s first acquisition of a company from its Startup Engagement network.

Sports Stock Market App PredictionStrike Raises $3 Million Seed Round Led by MaC Venture Capital

By Andrew Cohen

Sports stock market app PredictionStrike has raised a $3 million seed round led by MaC Venture Capital. The funding will help PredictionStrike launch a premium membership offering and other new social-focused features such as playing with friends, leaderboards, and a reward-based referral program.

PredictionStrike let’s users buy and sell shares of athletes in leagues such as the NFL, NBA and UFC, with players in the WNBA, soccer, tennis and golf expected to soon be added. An athlete’s stock price fluctuates based on their real-life performances and user demand, meaning their price increases if they perform better than PredictionStrike’s projections and if user demand for their stock increases. Their share price will decrease as demand goes down and if they underperform their projections.

PredictionStrike launched in 2019 and previously raised $1.7 million in pre-seed capital. The app processed more than $15 million in transactions from over 100,000 users in 2021. Sixty8 Capital also contributed to PredictionStrike’s new funding round. Other startups to offer athlete stock market gaming apps include the Alex Rodriguez-backed Mojo and Boston-based Jock MKT.

DAZN Acquires Eleven Group, Including Team Whistle, to Become Leading Rightsholder for Soccer in Belgium, Portugal

By Joe Lemire

Global sports streamer DAZN announced Tuesday that it had reached an agreement to acquire Eleven Group’s sports media business, which includes Team Whistle, a data-driven social video platform. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed, and the agreement’s completion is pending anti-trust review.

With the addition of Eleven, DAZN will be a leading rightsholder for soccer in Belgium and Portugal as well as its existing stronghold in the DACH region (Germany-Austria-Switzerland). DAZN has strong market share in Japan while Eleven’s portfolio includes Taiwan and southeast Asian countries.

Founded in 2015 by Andrea Radrizzani, the primary owner of Premier League club Leeds United, Eleven is also a key vendor in the production and distribution of FIFA+, the federation’s new international streaming service. Team Whistle has more than 700 million followers across social channels and is a top-10 sports media property in the US, as ranked by ComScore.

Earlier this year, DAZN announced its intention to incorporate sports betting content into its platform and launched DAZN Studios, a production arm charged with development of shoulder programming to complement the live sports rights. Former Disney streaming executive Kevin Mayer joined DAZN as its board chair a year ago. DAZN previously pursued BT Sport before that deal fell through.

DAZN reportedly lost about $2.5 billion in 2019 and 2020, and its billionaire founder, Len Blavatnik, invested another $4.3 billion earlier this year to eliminate its debt.

Any Distance, a Social Fitness App, Raises $1.5 Million Pre-Seed Round Led by Bungalow Capital

By Joe Lemire

Any Distance, a social fitness app, announced a $1.5 million pre-seed round led by Bungalow Capital and joined by Overline, Fitt Insider, Shorewind Capital, OliveX, The Gramercy Fund and more than 30 angel investors. 

A mobile app available for iPhone and Apple Watch users, Any Distance gamifies activity by allowing users to earn collectibles and experience routes in 3D and augmented reality. The stated goal is to motivate and celebrate rather than compete and compare.

Founder and CEO Luke Beard, a photographer and the founder visual storytelling company Exposure, began walking more during the pandemic and shared his journeys with photos and statistical templates, which gained an organic following. His co-founder, Dan Kuntz, previously founded two companies in the music industry. Any Distance is based in Atlanta.

FIFA World Cup Qatar Names vivo as Official Sponsor, Smartphone for Tournament This Year

By Tom Friend

China-based tech conglomerate vivo has become the official smart phone of the FIFA World Cup Qatar, as well as the only mobile device to emerge as an event sponsor.

The company’s new X Fold+ —which will launch on the mainland of China in conjunction with the event —is being touted as the first official foldable smart phone in FIFA’s history. The innovative phone will be deployed during the preparation and staging of World Cup matches. According to wireless tech company Qualcomm, the X Fold + utilizes Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 for a 30% reduction in power use to go with a 10% improvement in performance.

FIFA first inked a six-year sponsorship deal with vivo in 2017. Previously vivo has sponsored the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017, the FIFA World Cup Russia in 2018 and the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar in 2021.

The World Cup’s other innovations in Qatar include facial recognition cameras and drone surveillance for the purpose of crowd security. Event organizers will also deploy over 15,000 cameras to monitor spectators across the eight World Cup venues and on the streets of Doha.

Buccaneers’ Tom Brady Shared News of Injured Finger on Autograph, the NFT Company Brady Co-Founded

By Andrew Cohen

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady disclosed news of his injured ring finger on his right hand in a video he shared last week to paying members of his exclusive fan club on Autograph, the NFT company he co-founded.

In the 1-minute and 22-second video, Brady provided a breakdown of what he saw during his deep touchdown throw to wide receiver Breshad Perriman during Tampa’s Week 2 game against the New Orleans Saints. According to The Athletic, the video’s footage also included Brady holding up his injured finger wrapped in a white bandage. Brady was not listed on the Bucs’ injury reports for Wednesday and Thursday of last week — but he was listed on Friday after his video had been posted. Fans who buy Tom Brady’s Season Ticket NFT for $750 get access to his membership community on Autograph, which is called The Huddle.

“I wanted to do something special for the Signature holders, so check this out. I’m doing this just for you guys, members of the Huddle,” Brady said in the video while holding up his hand, according to The Athletic. “You can get injury information.”

Eligible fans could watch the private video in Autograph’s Discord channel for Brady Season Ticket NFT holders. The club is currently limited to 2,500 available Season Ticket NFTs with about 800 having been sold so far. In addition to videos from Brady, members get access to merchandise, NFTs, in-person events, fantasy football advice from Matthew Berry, and $50 in credit for FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange that Brady is an investor in and appears in advertisements for.

“We are really pushing to give unique access to our community, and this special video was given to our Tom Brady Season Ticket holders,” Autograph’s CEO and co-founder Dillon Rosenblatt told SportTechie. “It’s a difficult time in the market, but there’s no other project really delivering on this kind of utility on a weekly basis.”

Future of Sport Lab Startups, Including Drive Hockey Analytics, Set for Demo Day September 27

By Tom Friend

The Future of Sport Lab’s eight startups—which range from fan engagement to fitness tech to artificial intelligence—will unveil their technology and business plans at Tuesday’s Demo Day in Toronto.

The pitch session is expected to be attended by more than 75 of Canada’s sports tech leaders. All of the eight startups received direction from the Ted Rogers School of Business and entrepreneurial-centric DMZ and were able to trial their products across Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment teams and venues.

The Future of Sport Lab’s Canadian-based startups are as follows:

  • BookSeats.com—Helps fans streamline trips to world-wide sporting events. Allows users to book custom flight, hotel and ticket packages.
  • Classlete –Creates virtual or printed sports cards and posters for high school athletes that aggregate their statistics, grade-point-averages and volunteer hours —which can be then simply posted to social media.
  • DIBZ—Novel technology that improves a fan’s in-venue experience through text messaging.
  • Drive Hockey Analytics—Providing mainstream hockey players with the same player and puck tracking that pros receive, through AI and wearable sensor technology.
  • Innerlogic—Intuitive software that ensures that sports organizations can evaluate their working culture and keep it safe, supportive, high-performing and aligned.
  • TheProgram.ai—creates engaging sports and fitness content for youth athletes to promote a lifelong interest in wellness.
  • tiptapSPORTS—Improves frictionless payments with a goal of increasing the fundraising potential of sports organization, while enhancing the in-venue fan experience.
  • Vic Park Analytics—A diverse team of consultants that identify the next generation female consumer in the sports industry.

Operated since 2018 by Toronto Metropolitan University, in conjunction with MLSE, the Future of Sport Lab’s startups have raised more than $30 million in financing and investments. Recognizable companies to have matriculated from the Future of Sport Lab are the injury prediction startup Zone7, audio streaming app ProWire, remote sports announcing platform Spalk and the female-centric sports media startup The GIST.

LootMogul, Sports Metaverse Secure First Naming Rights Deal for Digital Properties in Its Virtual World

By Joe Lemire

Sports Metaverse creator LootMogul has reached its first naming rights deal for digital properties in its virtual world. 

Hoop Culture, a basketball accessories and lifestyle apparel brand, is the new titular partner of the Metaverse Arena in Orlando. It will also create five retail/experiential stores in five arenas throughout the Sports Metaverse developed by LootMogul.

LootMogul, which bills itself as an athlete-led Web3 platform, recently received a $200 million investment from the Global Emerging Markets Group. Basketball Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie is one of the company’s athlete ambassadors, along with retired NBA players Rick Barry, Carlos Boozer, Mario Chalmers, Michael Cooper and Gheorghe Muresan.

Web3 Daily Fantasy and Sports Betting Startup HotStreak Raises $9 Million Series A Led by Polychain Capital

By Andrew Cohen

Web3 daily fantasy and sports betting startup HotStreak has raised a $9 million Series A round led by Polychain Capital. FanDuel co-founder and former CEO Nigel Eccles has also joined San Francisco-based HotStreak as chairman of its board.

Polychain Capital is a hedge fund focused on cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, with blockchain company Tezos being among its existing investments. HotStreak will use its new funding to launch Sharp Protocol, a blockchain infrastructure for regulated sports betting and fantasy operators to enable users to place wagers with cryptocurrency.

HotStreak is the latest blockchain-based sports gaming investment for Eccles as he’s also funded betting startups Aver and BetDex, which raised $21 million last year. HotStreak’s daily fantasy sports app is currently available on the App Store.

nVenue to Track Aaron Judge, Albert Pujols Pitch-by-Pitch Home Run Probabilities During AppleTV+ Broadcasts

By Joe Lemire

As the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols approach historic home run milestones, nVenue will track their pitch-by-pitch home run probabilities throughout their Apple TV+ broadcasts Friday night.

With Judge at 60 home runs—one shy of Roger Maris’ Yankees and American League mark of 61—and Pujols two home runs shy of becoming the fourth player with 700 for his career, both of their games will be included in Apple’s season long Friday night MLB package, which are streamed for free to all users.

The on-screen probabilities computed by nVenue rely on complex models with dozen of inputs related to the batter, pitcher, ballpark and historical data. Prior to the game, nVenue will publish predictions for Judge’s first plate appearance on its Twitter feed, as well as additional predictive content. According to nVenue, Judge begins his first at-bat around the league average probability of hitting a home run (roughly 2.25%). Judge’s chances of a walk are eight times the league average at an 0-0 count, but nVenue notes that Judge’s chances of homering increase as the count progresses, highlighting the 2-1 count in particular.

The Dallas-based startup also plans to reveal for the first time more detailed information on social media about how its probabilities are calculated.

Amazon-Owned Twitch No Longer Allowing Users to Share Content From Gambling Websites After Sliker Scam

By Andrew Cohen

Amazon’s gaming-focused streaming platform Twitch will no longer let users share content from websites that offer slots, roulette, or dice games if the site does not hold a license in the U.S. or another jurisdiction that provides “sufficient consumer protection,” Twitch said in a statement. The updated gambling policy comes shortly after a popular streamer known as Sliker confessed to scamming his Twitch viewers out of $200,000 to fuel his own video game gambling addiction.

Silker, whose real name is Abraham Mohammed, routinely asked his Twitch audience to send him money claiming he needed the cash due to issues with his bank account, according to Kotaku. He recently admitted that the real reason was he used the money to buy weapon skins on the items marketplace in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive video game.

Many Twitch streamers have sponsorships with gambling operators, but Twitch will no longer let users share links or referral codes to gambling sites including Stake.com, Rollbit.com, Duelbits.com and Roobet.com. Stake.com, which brands itself as a crypto casino and sports betting platform, has sponsorships with UFC and Premier League club Everton.

Twitch’s new policy will go into effect on Oct. 18. “We will continue to allow websites that focus on sports betting, fantasy sport, and poker” reads Twitch’s statement.

The NFL and Amazon livestream Thursday Night Football games for free on Twitch. Other leagues to stream games on Twitch include the NWSL and English Premier League, as well as NBC’s Olympic programming. Twitch’s parent company Amazon recently signed a deal with DraftKings to provide gambling odds on a pre-game show for Thursday Night Football on Prime Video.