SBJ/20090126/SBJ In-Depth

Making the pitch for venture capital

1) Social media
There is no shortage of companies attempting to build “the Facebook of sports.” Some companies, such as Watercooler and Citizen Sports Network, build sports-related applications that reside directly within Facebook and other major social media networks. Others, such as SportsFan Live, exist as separate destinations with social media functionality built within them. But the core similarity among these and the many dozens of others is an attempt to harness the power and repeat user visits of social media and apply it in some way to sports fandom.
2) Fantasy
This is another no-brainer in which entrepreneurs are simply looking to chase the numbers. Research points to nearly 30 million people in the U.S. and Canada playing fantasy sports, many of whom spend at least several hours per week managing their teams and interacting with rivals. Venture capital pitches run the gamut between actual games, roster management tools and software, and news and information for fantasy players.
3) Prep sports
A few older, more prominent online players for prep sports and recruiting, such as Rivals and MaxPreps, have been purchased in recent years by major media hubs. But this space remains incredibly fragmented, not surprising given the vast number of American youth involved in high school sports and the wide variety of interested parties. Many recent pitches to venture capital firms have sought in some way to tie together several elements surrounding prep sports and digital media — including social media, video photo sharing, scheduling and results, and news content — in a bid for broad scale.
4) Blogging and user-generated content
This is another fast-growing segment that seeks to fill in the content gap being created by the steady demise of mainstream daily newspapers. The core principle here is simple enough — fans still hunger for content, and if their local paper can’t deliver it, then there’s an opportunity for somebody else, particularly somebody who might have a more passionate and locally aware voice than a wire service outlet. But with the national ad market for all content currently in freefall due to the recession, the tougher trick here is creating a viable business model that doesn’t solely rely on the vagaries of selling ads.
5) Mobile
Similar in concept to social media, the core thought here is taking what’s great about mobile and the dramatic advancements in handset technology over the past year and applying it to sports. Much like online media, however, startups generally need to build products outside of the confines of intellectual property held by the major sports properties and teams, as they, too, are eagerly aiming to exploit new wireless opportunities.
6) Advertising and monetization strategies
Not necessarily specific to sports, plenty of people in and around the digital media industry are actively searching for new ways to generate revenue online and tie in better metrics than third-party panel measurements. Activity here is particularly fervent in the mobile space, which has yet to generate any mainstream, commonly accepted advertising platform, but boasts very high measures among both reach and engagement with users.
— Compiled by Eric Fisher
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