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There has been a lot of discussion about social TV over the past year, but somewhat absent from the conversation has been sports. If you have ever watched a game at a sports bar, you may already have seen first-hand how crowd enthusiasm and team rivalries can enhance the sports viewing experience. Now, that crowd enthusiasm is being translated to social media. In 2012, so far we have seen over 12 million Twitter and Facebook comments during the Super Bowl, 8 Super Bowl commercials including hashtags, and a study by GMR Marketing showing that 83% of sports fans monitor social media sites while watching games on TV. "Social media is a natural for sports because everyone wants to give their opinion of the referee after a big call," says Wellesley-Wesley, CEO of Chyron, which develops products and services for digital broadcast graphics creation. While it's clear that sports fan are as social as ever online, some startups are betting there is an opportunity around sports that goes beyond social media with predictive games.
Predictive games differ from traditional sports betting in that they involve predicting the outcome of events during a game and no money is wagered. Although predictive games are not considered gambling, they rely on similar game mechanics to traditional betting, rewarding users based on the outcome of events within a sporting event.
The earliest web-based, predictive games for sports dates back to the late 90s with fantasy baseball and fantasy football. Fantasy sports users create and manage a virtual team. Their virtual team is then ranked among other users’ teams based on the real world performance of players throughout the season. These games typically lasted an entire sports season and require some upkeep to keep user’s team active. While fantasy sports have had a long history, new incarnations of this old game have cropped up in the last few years. Starting in 2006, a number of operations such as FanDual, Fantazzle and DraftDay have offered "daily" fantasy sports games where players could win and lose within a single day. Now, several startups are further evolving the concept, introducing games that shorten the win and lose time horizon down to minute-by-minute events during a game. These games add a real-time component by asking users to predict the outcome of plays during the course of a sports event. Users are rewarded with points and prizes for predicting plays correctly.
Preplay, for instance, asks users to make predictions with watching their favorite NFL teams play giving users the opportunity to translate their NFL knowledge into points. A new startup, Ante Up built on Numote Live's Social TV platform takes a different route targeting Soccer and integrating team news and history in their apps. Bleacher League does the same but for Baseball. Sports sponsor Heineken has embraced the concept in its Star Player app, a predictive game created for the UEFA Champion's League. TV networks such as HBO have already begun to experiment with predictive and real-time apps. HBO’s PunchZone website adds a real-time companion element to boxing providing live stats and poll questions timed with fights. Whether these types of games will become mainstream is still unclear, but look for more innovation from brands, sponsors, and sport organizations incorporating predictive games starting with this year's summer Olympics.
We've seen a huge growth in social TV in the past year, with shows such as X Factor allowing users to vote through Twitter, 13 million social media comments generated around the Grammy Awards show, and a huge social TV presence at this year's NAB Show. It's clear that the social TV revolution is in full swing, but for sports, the future holds the potential for entirely new ways of engagement, some we may have yet to even imagined.