Sportable, Six Nations Rugby Introduce Smart Rugby Ball for Competitions as Part of Multi-Year Partnership

By Joe Lemire

Six Nations Rugby will introduce Sportable’s smart rugby ball into its competitions as part of a multi-year partnership, beginning with the Autumn Nations Series that starts on October 29 with a match between Australia and Scotland. 

Sportable and ball manufacturer Gilbert have collaborated to develop a chip-enabled rugby ball that tracks such metrics as passing and kicking distances, speeds and hang time, as well as the prospect of officiating support. That data is then analyzed and made available to broadcasters, sportsbooks and the participating teams with less than 400 milliseconds latency thanks to partnerships with Vodafone and AWS Wavelength edge computing.

Six Nations trialed the Sportable ball during its women’s tournament in 2021 and now will implement it in the Autumn Nations Series between Northern and Southern Hemisphere teams, Guinness Six Nations men’s tournament and TikTok Women’s Six Nations Championship.

In a separate deal, Six Nations Rugby has also named software provider Sage as its official insights partner. Sage, which also recently partnered with Major League Baseball, will be integrated across all Six Nations competitions with part of its rugby remit to help analyze the new smart ball data.

WSC Sports to Use Their AI Technology to Create and Distribute Automated Video Highlights for Mobile Streaming Service Migu

By Tom Friend

WSC Sports is integrating its proprietary automation tools with mobile streaming service Migu to create real-time video and highlight solutions for China’s top sports broadcast entity.

The partnership enhances Migu’s ability to disseminate instant, short-form content across its platforms and social media outlets. The Chinese media conglomerate has broadcast rights to as many as 30 different sports leagues, producing more than 8,000 sporting events and 16,000 total hours a year. Migu also averages 20 game broadcasts a day.

WSC Sports’ artificial intelligence and machine learning technology will allow Migu to distribute real-time video content to its China audience from leagues such as the Chinese Basketball Association, English Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and the NBA.

Migu has long had aspirations to stream U.S. sports since striking its multi-platform and marketing partnership with the NBA in 2018, its first with a North American sports league. That deal enabled Migu to show daily NBA highlights, behind-the-scenes videos, original programming content and classic NBA games, all while integrating 4K resolution and VR into the viewer experience.

Migu also has a deal to show Shanghai Football Association games with the help of Pixellot’s unmanned cameras. But WSC Sports allows Migu to produce AI-induced video highlights for all of its content.

Tel Aviv-based WSC Sports — which in February raised an $100 million Series D to enter the betting space — has other similar partnerships with Shenzhen-based Tencent and China Central Television as it continues its growth in the region. The tech company already creates and disseminates video clips for more than 250 leagues and broadcast partners such as the NBA, NFL, NHL, NASCAR, ESPN, Warner Media, YouTubeTV, Bundesliga, FIBA, FanDuel and Extreme E Racing.

Bleacher Report to Host Alternate Live Streams of ALCS Games 1, 4 in B/R App, Live Chat Available for Fans to Interact With Broadcasters

By Tom Friend

Bleacher Report will produce alternative late-inning streams of Games 1 and 4 of the upcoming American League Championship Series that will allow fans to live-chat with broadcasters during the game’s tense moments. Game 1 of the ALCS is slated for this Wednesday, with Game 4 scheduled for Sunday. 

Available through the B/R app, the exclusive seventh, eighth and ninth inning streams will feature Emmy-Award winning announcer Jaime Maggio, former MLB outfielder Dexter Fowler and current Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen. B/R is utilizing the regular TBS game-feed via TV Everywhere authentication to enable the interaction between fans and on-air talent.

B/R claims it will keep the streams rolling during commercial breaks, when Maggio, Fowler and Gallen will react to MLB-related tweets and viewer comments within the app. B/R has produced similar alternative streams for the NBA and NHL as it explores real-time interactive broadcasting. A subsidiary of Turner Sports, B/R previously unveiled fourth-quarter NBA livestreams featuring basketball YouTuber Kenny Beecham and also first-period NHL streams with hockey YouTuber Andrew Telfer (known as Nasher).

The Bleacher Report app has been heading in this innovative direction since 2019, when Turner Sports made plans to merge its B/R Live OTT streaming platform into its regular B/R app. The media company also launched direct messaging within its mobile app at that time to enhance communication between its users, which is now coming to the forefront during this month’s ALCS.

MLB, Candy Digital Offering Commemorative NFT Tickets to Postseason Fans

By Tom Friend

Fans attending MLB postseason contests can receive commemorative NFT tickets that will update with pertinent game photos within 24 hours of the event.

The NFTs or digital ticket stubs, produced by the league’s digital collectible partner Candy Digital, will also feature game details such as matchups, the venue and the starting time — a first for MLB.

In addition, fans who also bought MLB ICON Leadoff Series NFTs in April have the opportunity on October 21st to find eight randomly placed World Series digital tokens. Each of those World Series Token NFTs can be traded in for two tickets to this season’s actual World Series.

This year, Candy Digital appealed to the baseball audience by constantly updating player stats on its MLB ICON Leadoff Series NFTs. Its inaugural baseball NFT, on July 4th, 2021, was a 1-of-1 token of Lou Gehrig delivering his “Luckiest Man” speech in 1939 following his diagnosis of ALS.

The company followed that up this season with a series of licensed NFTs commemorating the 40-year anniversary of Cal Ripken’s dynamic rookie season of 1982. Those NFTs featured archived video highlights from the ’82 season along with other footage narrated by Ripken himself.

In August, Candy Digital announced their latest college football NFT drop featuring 17 student-athletes, including Texas running back Bijan Robinson, Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and Oregon QB Bo Nix. The company initially entered the college football NFT space in 2021 with its Candy Sweet Futures Collection and debuted a college basketball version in March of 2022, as well.

MLB, Meta Introduce New Postseason Debate AR Filter for Fans on Instagram, Facebook

By Andrew Cohen

Meta is working with MLB to introduce a new augmented reality filter for fans on Instagram and Facebook this postseason. Fans can activate the new MLB Postseason Debate AR effect to engage with popular MLB discussion topics by tilting their head to answer questions on their phone screen.

The smartphone camera-based AR feature can be turned on via the effects tab on MLB’s Instagram and Facebook accounts. Questions asked include, “Who will win AL MVP” with fans able to lean their head right or left to vote for Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani, as well as “AL or NL – Which league will win the World Series?” MLB posted a video on its Instagram account of Cleveland Guardians pitcher Triston McKenzie answering questions via the AR effect.

MLB has gained more than one million followers on Instagram this year and generated more than two billion video views on the app. MLB’s longstanding relationship with Meta includes livestreaming select games for MLB.TV subscribers in virtual reality through Oculus Quest headsets and previously saw the league livestream 25 games for free on Facebook Watch during the 2018 season.

NBA, NBPA Launch NFT Fantasy Basketball Game With Sorare, Fans Can Buy and Trade Digital Cards for Fantasy Lineups on Sorare Website, App

By Andrew Cohen

The NBA and NBPA have launched their new NFT fantasy basketball game with Sorare, the Paris-based gaming company that already offers NFT fantasy contests with MLB, MLS and top international soccer leagues. Fans can buy and trade digital cards of NBA players to build five-man fantasy lineups for competitions against other users on Sorare’s website and app starting Oct. 21.

NBA player cards this season will be available in five scarcity tiers: 5,000 Limited, 1,000 Rares, 100 Super Rares and one Unique card. Fantasy teams will earn points based on their player’s real-life performances, such as points scored, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, three pointers, and lose points for turnovers. Winning fantasy contests will let users gain rewards such as new Sorare player cards, jerseys and tickets to real NBA games. The NBA announced its multi-year deal with Sorare last month to become the league’s first NFT fantasy partner.

Sorare was founded in 2018 and has roots in international fantasy soccer before expanding this year to offer blockchain-based NFT fantasy products for MLB and the NBA. In the first six months of 2022, trading volume on Sorare increased 250% compared to last year. Sorare says its MLB game now has more than 75,000 users since launching earlier this year. The company raised $680 million in Sept. 2021.

Genius Sports Becomes Exclusive Official Data and Integrity Partner for Australian Professional Leagues

By Joe Lemire

The Australian Professional Leagues, which oversees the top men’s and women’s soccer divisions in the country, has selected Genius Sports as its exclusive official data and integrity partner. 

Genius Sports will collect and distribute all official data for betting and media partners and will install its Second Spectrum optical tracking system in select A-League venues. The company’s 24/7 bet monitoring technology will also be deployed, by cross-referencing real-time odds and predictive algorithms to identify suspicious activity.

Second Spectrum tracking technology is already in use by the NBA, English Premier League and MLS. Genius Sports is the official data partner of the NFL and EPL. While Genius is the new partner for the professional A Leagues, displacing Champion Data, Stats Perform is in the incumbent partner of Football Australia for event and tracking data.

Ōura Health, Therabody Integrating Wellness Monitoring and Recovery Technology for Enhanced Data, Guidance

By Joe Lemire

Ōura Health and Therabody are integrating their wellness monitoring and recovery technology to provide users enhanced recovery and sleep data and guidance. 

Those who wear the Oura ring and use Therabody products, such as the percussive massager Theragun, will see crossover features in the accompanying apps. The Therabody app will now feature an Oura sleep routine that provides tips and steps for better sleep quality. The Oura app will now offer TheraMind sound therapy, whose meditative tracks and breathing exercises have been shown to improve biometrics such as heart rate and heart rate variability; this is the first time Therabody has licensed that audio content.

“The future of wellness is connected,” Therabody founder and chief wellness officer, Dr. Jason Wersland, said in a statement. “Oura biometrics and Therabody devices and content now work together to enhance your recovery routine and support your sleep quality.”

Therabody, whose latest product line includes the sleep-focused wearable SmartGoggles, is making Oura rings available for purchase in its more than 20 retail locations in the US. This marks the first third-party product to be sold by Therabody and the first time the Oura Gen3 ring has been available for purchase in a brick-and-mortar store.

Oura, which recently released its Horizon ring, previously partnered with Strava and Natural Cycles and has worked with brand ambassadors such as Alexi Pappas and leagues such as the NBA, NASCAR and the World Surf League.

Circuit of the Americas Partners With Cash App, Fans Who Use Finance App for Concessions Receive 15% Back on Their Bill

By Tom Friend

The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) racetrack, which is home to F1 and NASCAR events, is enlisting the mobile payment service Cash App to offer fans a smoother way to pay for concessions while also saving money.

Starting Friday, spectators at the venue can only order food and beverage items from their virtual Cash App card. There will also be a “Boost” feature available that will give fans 15% of their money back. Cash App, available for iOS and Android, is also affiliated with Red Bull Racing.

Back in 2021, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers teamed with Cash App to promote cryptocurrency on its platform. Cash App, in the process, converted an undisclosed amount of Rodgers’ NFL paycheck — worth a total of $134 million — to Bitcoin and also give up to $1 million in Bitcoin in $100 increments to selected fans.

Combat Sports Streaming Service FITE Uses Manny Pacquiao ‘Hologram’ for Pre-Fight Press Conference in Los Angeles

By Andrew Cohen

Combat sports streaming service FITE used a “hologram” to virtually display Manny Pacquiao at his pre-fight press conference in Los Angeles last Thursday. Korean MMA fighter DK Yoo, who will fight Pacquiao in December, was physically at the press conference in LA while Pacquiao was in South Korea but was displayed in the room next to Yoo via the hologram device from Proto.

FITE, which is owned by Triller, refers to the event as the first hologram press conference in boxing history. Proto, formally known as Portl, streamed Pacquiao on its 4K volumetric video device that stands about seven feet tall. Proto has previously hosted hologram experiences around the MLB All Star Game with T-Mobile, the MLS All Star Game with AT&T, and at the Super Bowl with CBS Sports.

FITE will livestream the Pacquiao-Yoo exhibition fight from Seoul on Dec. 10. True Capital Management led Proto’s $12 million Series A funding round last year, which also included investments from MLB star Albert Pujols, NBA center Deandre Ayton, WNBA stars Breanna Stewart and Nneka Ogwumike, former NFL players Marshawn Lynch and Robert Griffin III, as well as musicians Quavo and P. Diddy.

Immersal Oy Launches AR Platform for Horse Racing Tracks, Fans Can Use Through Mobile Devices or AR Glasses

By Tom Friend

Metaverse provider Immersal Oy, a subsidiary of Finland-based Hexagon, has developed an augmented reality platform for horse racing tracks that creates a 3D fan experience before, during and after races.

Through a mobile device or AR glasses, spectators at participating tracks can use the AR to find their seats, to view real-time racing stats and analytics, to gain background on horses and for animated gamification. Immersal’s AR can also be integrated into each race track’s own mobile app.

Powered by multi-access edge computing servers, which speed up the response times of AR content, Immersal’s app operates on 5G. In June, the company launched a personal metaverse app, and the racetrack solution is an immersive outgrowth of that.

Acquired by Hexagon in 2021, Helsinki-based Immersal specializes in spatial mapping and visual positioning applications, keys to metaverse experiences. The company has created similar AR solutions for other sports such as hockey and other venues such as Noevir Stadium in Kobe, Japan.