NFL fans are a passionate lot. So when someone claims that their product is “increasing engagement” and driving “richer online conversations” among this audience, I’m both skeptical and intrigued. That company, SportStream, is regarded by many as the premium second screen app in sports. Now, the startup is announcing a first-of-its-kind partnership with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
SportStream has created a customized Seahawks social feed that is both branded in the team’s colors and insignia and also includes a highly curated stream of the most relevant Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and online news content as it relates to the team and players. The stream will be available throughout the Seahawks seasons, this year and next, including leading up to and during this weekend’s divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons (Game time: 10:00am PST, Sunday).
Unlike the traditional SportStream experience, which offers a balanced perspective on each game from fans of both team, the Seahawks SportStream feed will be specifically tailored to the team’s supporters. In other words, it’s deliberately biased. The stream specifically includes the social content from the voices most relevant to the team, including local beat writers, TV and radio commentators, players, and coaches.
Additionally, the startup and team have worked together to incorporate specialized content like a live game tracker, play-by-play coverage, full game stats, behind-the-scenes video and photos, and pre- and post-game online news coverage. All of this content is available in real-time.
“The Seahawks are at the forefront of fan engagement – from the stadium design to their prominent social media presence to [now] the second-screen platform we are providing,” says SportStream’s CEO and founder Bob Morgan.
While SportStream is known for its iPad app, the Seahawks partnership is available on the Web only. The team plans to push all of the gameday traffic to its website into the stream. According to the company, the experience is quickly transferable to the teams iPad app should the partners elect to do so in the future.
“Our partnership with SportStream provides Seahawks fans one location to view all team related news and information from respected sources,” says Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin.
Morgan declined to describe the nature of the partnership, but suggested that there was an element of trading its technology for branding and exposure. The Seahawks stream includes prominent SportStream logos and links throughout.
Given that Seahawks fans likely follow other sports – Mariners baseball, University of Washington or Washington State football, and whatever NBA team the locals support now that the Sonics are no more – the plan is to convert users of the dedicated Seahawks stream into broader SportStream users. The main consumer app offers streams for most pro and college football, NBA basketball, MLB baseball, and NHL hockey games (if they ever play again).
Longer term, the company is likely to introduce additional team-specific experiences on the Web and for mobile. Morgan tells me that conversations are already underway with other professional sports franchises. The company began with Seattle through the relationships of its investor, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital – from which the company raised $3.5 million in June of this year.
Although it doesn’t appear that the Seahawks stream is being monetized currently, the company does have a number of enticing options when it should decide to do so. Professional sports are one of the most marketable content categories of all, and both fans and advertisers are likely to pay for premium experiences. SportStream is beginning to gain access to premium licensed content like behind the scenes photos and video, live game commentary, comprehensive statistics, etc. With the direction things are going, the platform could conceivably transition beyond a second-screen experience into an alternative or substitute primary consumption platform.
SportStream is operating in two highly competitive categories: second screen apps, and sports content. In the former everyone from publishers, television networks, hardware manufacturers, and venture-back startups are looking to get in on the next-generation of living room content consumption. In the sports category, SportStream is competing with ESPN’s SportCenter mobile app and should probably expect competition from Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, the various professional sports leagues, and other startups.
The young company has developed an impressive product and continues to add engagement-driving features, like its recent personalized Facebook social graph integtation and today’s custom Seahawk’s experience. True sports fans are always looking for ways to get closer to the action around their favorite team. SportStream is currently in the pole position for delivering custom fan experiences across multiple social and content feeds.