Sports fan

Want to see a lively social media conversation? Tune in to Twitter and Facebook during a major sporting event and follow a few members of sports media and a few superfans of the teams playing. It’s oftentimes more informative and more entertaining than watching the live event – if nothing else, it provides a stellar complement.

But the problem is, it can be difficult for the average fan to curate this conversation around even their favorite sports team, let alone several of them, across multiple leagues.

Since launching in June of last year, SportStream has aimed to solve this problem, introducing arguably one of the best second screen experiences in sports. Initially, the company’s plan was to offer a single consumer app aggregating publicly available content across all leagues. But following a successful trial partnership with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks during last season’s playoffs, SportStream has shifted its focus entirely to a B2B (business to business) model and plans to work with teams, leagues, players, and media companies to power social-hubs and game day experiences.

SportStream launched its SportBase platform in May and has since signed additional partnerships with the Portland Trail Blazers, Liverpool Football Club, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Ask.com, and DirecTV Root Sports.

With the NCAA football season about to kick off this weekend, the company is announcing partnerships with five of the Top 10 teams in the AP Preseason rankings and several more of the Top 25. The list of partners includes, University of Michigan, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Miami, Stanford University, and University of Oregon, among others.

These teams will offer fans access to traditional features like scoreboards, stats, and play-by-play with a real-time stream of social content – via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – through both the Web and, on a team-by-team basis, through dedicated mobile apps. SportsStream can also be pushed to in-stadium jumbotron screens and other custom endpoints. Through SportsBase, the user experience is contextually aware and changes depending on whether there is a live game taking place to emphasize either real-time conversation or news and analysis.

“With such high levels of participation, the challenge for us is to find the very best of crowd-sourced content and display it in a way that’s interesting, engaging and digestible while also keeping people updated on the game itself,” said University of Oregon Senior Associate Athletic Director of Marketing and Public Relations in a statement released today.

Baylor University Associate Athletic Director said Heath Nielsen, said in the same statement, “Baylor fans span the globe, and while it’s not possible to replicate the in-stadium experience, they deserve an exciting experience that brings them as close to the action as possible.”

The platform is also totally customizable by each team and experience will be fully branded. For example, one team may choose to include play-by-play, while another may not. Or one team may place the game-stats module on the right hand column while another places it on the left. This could be both a good thing and a bad thing. Competing teams will surely appreciate the option to make their fan experience unique from one another, but fans will be robbed of the familiarity from one team to another. It’s also risky to leave design decisions to teams that may or may not have much expertise in that area.

Both fans and sports teams are looking for more engaging and effective ways to experience games and sports content in the connected era. SportStream has put out one compelling answer to that problem available today. But it’s far from the only one taking aim. TV and Internet media juggernauts ESPN and Bleacher Report both have highly popular mobile and second screen apps. The fledgling startup, which is backed by $3.5 million in funding from Microsoft co-founder and Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, will have its hands full in keeping out front of these giants.

SportStream dabbles in a variety of monetization mechanisms. SportsBase can be licensed or add-supported – with teams receiving a revenue-share. The company does not discuss its financial performance, but it remains the early days for the category in general, so there’s not much to read into yet. Nonetheless, there’s a question of how big a business this can become given that SportStream won’t own or produce any content, but rather offers a platform to aggregate and display existing content more effectively. Only time will tell if teams and fans will be willing to pay for this in three years or if such an offering become commoditized.

Nonetheless, for the upcoming NCAA football season, Oregon and the rest of the teams using SportStream are likely to offer fans the best experience in the league. As the NFL and then NBA seasons roll around, we’ll get a better sense of SportStream’s success in onboarding additional teams beyond those owned by its lead investors.

With a smartphone in every pocket and a tablet on most coffee tables, the timing couldn’t be better for SportStream to be entering the market.

[Image via Foundwalls]