Sports media startups on the rise

By Stephen Robert Morse |  Aug 20, 2012

A new flock of startups will lead the sports media industry into the digital era.

In August 2012, Turner Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Time Warner, purchased Bleacher Report — a San Francisco-based startup that serves as a social media platform for fans to write articles and create other original multimedia content — for a reported $200 million.

Led by the monumental acquisition of Bleacher Report, the sports industry is poised to be the next major industry to face the digital media revolution, especially as sports fans add more screens to their experiences.

Whereas Bleacher Report was born in the traditional startup hotbed of Silicon Valley, one up-and-coming player in the sports startup space is St. Louis-based Lockerdome, "a social media platform for your sports life" that now boasts more than one million users. The site has already raised more than $2 million and is growing.

Brian Reich, past briefing director for former Vice President Al Gore and public relations executive, recently launched "Thinking About Sports," a startup that "supplies a steady stream of knowledge and insights about different aspects of sports, tailored to the interests of casual fans."

Reich writes, "There are more than 200 million sports fans in the United States alone. The massive sports media and marketing industry only serves a small fraction of that audience, leaving upwards of 150 million fans looking for ways to learn, appreciate, and better understand different aspects of sports."

Focusing more on the online sports video arena is Bedrocket, co-founded by Ken Lehrer (the venture capitalist who previously founded the Huffington Post) and Brian Bedol (who previously founded Classic Sports Network, now ESPN Classic, as well as College Sports Television, purchased by CBS and is now the CBS College Sports Network). Though its programming will not all be sports focused, Bedrocket has already launched two sports-heavy YouTube Channels: KICKTV (soccer) and network A (featuring surfing, snowboarding, BMX racing and more).

Bedol wrote, "Sports on linear TV is going the way of the leather helmet, as it forces every fan to watch the same thing at the same time. Only digital TV can be personalized to offer content that matches each fan's unique sports DNA."

To sum up his views on sports startups, Reich added, "There are lots of sports startups emerging right now. Nearly all of them, it seems, are focused on one of two things: creating a second or third screen experience for die-hard fans, or fantasy/gambling. There are apps that allow you to discuss sports, trade trash talk, and get access to additional stats, but there isn't a mechanism for getting answers, making sense of, or deepening one's understanding of a sport or sporting event, whether you are at a game, watching on TV, or discussing with friends."

Consider this the first quarter for all of these startups. Let's see where they land by halftime.

STEPHEN ROBERT MORSE - Stephen Robert Morse is a writer, multimedia journalist, producer, digital strategist, and entrepreneur, currently based in New York City.

This article originally appeared on The Atlantic Online as part of the Investing In A Better Tomorrow program.

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