Live sports are one of the few proven use cases for real-time social media. Twitter’s users still aren’t sure what they’re supposed to be doing there, even according to the company’s own executives, but every time a Super Bowl or World Cup rolls around, they seem to get the hang of it for a few days.
The problem with the social sports experience is it’s almost too rich. Depending on which piece of it you want to do – check scores, read headlines, trash talk with your friends, watch highlight clips, update your fantasy roster – there are thousands and thousands of different apps you might be using, not to mention all the general-purpose ones sports fans use to share with each other, like email and text messages.
Alex Beckman had 25 different ones on his phone when he had the idea for one that would make most of them unnecessary. “The goal was to take that sports news experience you might have with your friends and create a chat platform that’s content-aware,” says Beckman. The result is GameOn, which just secured $1.5 million in seed funding, with NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana taking a big stake through his Liquid Two Ventures fund.
The GameOn experience is organized around “huddles,” basically chat rooms or groups that you can create or follow. You might create a huddle for your hometown friends and another for your college roommates while following the official huddles of your favorite NBA team and La Liga. “Content aware” means the huddle is automatically updated with articles and photos from partner news outlets like ESPN and Bleacher Report, as well as videos of home runs, touchdowns and other highlights pulled from Vine. (A lot of the sports video on Vine is put there without permission of the rights holder. Beckman says GameOn is negotiating with leagues and networks for the rights. In the meantime, “We’re working within terms of service on Vine and counting on them to do all the right stuff there.”)
Athletes have their own huddles, too. Right now about 30 of them are signed up with GameOn. Since most of them are already interacting with fans on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, it’s an easy way to consolidate and monetize their followings through the sale of digital “stickers” bearing their likenesses. Beckman likens the stickers to the playing cards or bobblehead dolls fans already collect.
Lawyer Milloy, the Pro Bowl safety who played 15 seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots, is one of the athletes who’s most active with GameOn. Like Montana, he’s an investor and also a close advisor to Beckman. Milloy describes himself as an avid technophile. “I’m one of the guys that, at the end of the night when the wife is going to sleep, I’m downloading apps,” he says.
Milloy thinks athletes’ huddles will be one of the biggest draws for GameOn. “It’s really hard from a consumer standpoint to feel like they’re getting a true opinion from somebody who actually played the damn game.”