San Francisco-based startup SportStream is launching its iPad app today, which will act as a place for sports fans to come together and discuss live sporting events as they happen. It’s a little like having a curated, sandboxed social media feed centered around just the events you care about. Automated features make sure everyone participating sees major game highlights in their stream, and communication (both public and private, within and across networks) is supported right in the app. Basically, SportStream’s like watching the game at the bar with friends, only you can do it remotely, and you can also broadcast your opinion to the world if you feel so inclined.
SportStream comes out of Evri, a startup designed around general content discovery, and founder and CEO Will Hunsinger said in an interview that his experiences with his earlier startup definitely informed the direction of his new one.
“Evri is a content discovery platform, that uses semantic technology to distill content into topics and deliver them to the iPad,” he told us. “When this content came up, we were nibbling at the edges of trying to create vertical content experiences, and in doing that, we realized that a lot of people do that. Lots of people do news about teams, news about sports. But whereas Evri was very semantic and algorithmic, sports were very social.” Since integrating a sports-focused vertical into Evri didn’t seem to be a good fit, the team decided to spin SportStream off as its own product.
The new direction for Hunsinger and his team is designed to capitalize on the rise in second-screen viewing, which has seen some of its most noteworthy success in the realm of televised live sports. This year’s Super Bowl, for instance, topped 12,000 tweets per second at one point during the broadcast, and scored a cumulative total of 13 million tweets when the dust settled. With that kind of activity on social networking services, it’s easy to see why Hunsinger saw an opportunity for SportStream. And it’s also easy to see why, rather than starting from scratch with a separate sports-focused social networking tool, his company chose to build on the momentum that’s already there on Twitter and Facebook.
“I was watching a Georgetown Hoyas basketball game, and at the same time I had a Facebook friend I was exchanging comments with,” Hunsinger said. “And I had texts incoming and my smartphone with me, and it just struck me that if I had a way to bring all these feeds together in one place, rather than trying to connect with them individually on a point to point basis, that’d be much better.”
Basically, SportStream acts as a curated, cross-platform friends list, as well as a filter for drowning out the noise and spam often associated with trending and popular topics on Twitter. It’s a useful idea, and well-executed on, and perfectly suited for the iPad. But the SportsStream will face an uphill battle in terms of drawing crowds away from the networks it uses to fuel its conversation. It’ll have to prove to users that they can derive more value from a curated conversation happening in its app, versus what they’ll experience in the networks themselves. For users who like second-screen experiences not because they offer more information about what they’re currently watching, but also the ability to talk about unrelated subjects as well, that may be a tough sell.
At launch, SportStream will support all currently airing U.S. major professional sports, and the team plans to add more as demand grows, as well as add additional platforms in the future. The startup is backed by $3.5 million from Vulcan Capital, the VC firm headed by Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen, so Hunsinger is in like-minded company in terms of his investors. It’ll be interesting to see how the company looks to monetize, especially if it can bring together large groups of superfans, individuals with clear shared interests representing significant sales opportunities, in a single place.