SBJ/July 29-August 4, 2013/In Depth

Meet the appmakers

Mobile app development in sports is as varied as the apps themselves. Some companies do their own internal development as part of a larger media operation. In other cases, smaller firms focus specifically on apps, creating many of the leading sports titles on the market. A look at several key players:

MLB Advanced Media

HEADQUARTERS: New York
KEY EXECUTIVE: Bob Bowman, president and CEO
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS:
MLB.com At Bat, At The Ballpark, Home Run Derby, Beat The Streak
THE SKINNY: MLBAM has enjoyed a multiyear run with At Bat as the top-grossing sports app on iTunes, and the company has long been considered a trailblazer in the category. At The Ballpark has sparked its own innovation with ballpark-specific features such as seat upgrades and player at-bat music. Beyond its own expertise, the company is aided by the everyday nature of baseball, which provides a steady flow of content nearly around the clock.



Polar Mobile

HEADQUARTERS: Toronto
KEY EXECUTIVE: Kunal Gupta, CEO
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS: The Hockey News, TalkSport, Daily Racing Form, CFL Mobile, Hockey Canada Concussion Awareness, NHLPA Player Tracker
THE SKINNY: Primarily servicing news organizations such as Crain’s, The Wall Street Journal and Conde Nast, Polar Mobile in recent years has made sports an increasing priority. Not surprisingly, hockey-related organizations in its native Canada have been an initial focus. But the company is branching out from there, and has worked with players’ unions in several sports.










Bottle Rocket
App development has sent business through the roof for Bottle Rocket President Calvin Carter.
Photo by: Jake Dean

HEADQUARTERS: Dallas
KEY EXECUTIVE: Calvin Carter, president
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS: ESPN Magazine, WWE, DerbyMe
THE SKINNY: Another outfit with a deep client base of TV networks, the company has sought to forge a niche in high-end apps that incorporate lots of video. Bottle Rocket’s most recent sports project was DerbyMe, an app for Churchill Downs focused strictly on social media around the Kentucky Derby.





RockLive

HEADQUARTERS: Newport Beach, Calif.
KEY EXECUTIVES: John and Sam Shahidi, founders
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS: Bolt!
THE SKINNY: Founded by a pair of brothers, this company has focused on cartoon-based personality and gaming apps around athletes and celebrities, working with soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, sprinter Usain Bolt, former NFL receiver Chad Johnson and former boxer Mike Tyson, among others.















Omnigon Communications
Omnigon's Igor Ulis

HEADQUARTERS: New York, Toronto, Kiev
KEY EXECUTIVE: Igor Ulis, CEO and co-founder
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS: NASCAR Mobile ’13, Westminster Dog Show ’13, Bellator Mobile
THE SKINNY: The introduction of NASCAR Mobile ’13, with Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski at the opening keynote of the International Consumer Electronics Show, could hardly have been more pressure-packed. But this digital media agency has become a deeply trusted adviser to a wide range of properties and networks, including NASCAR, the PGA Tour, Fox Sports and the USTA.



CSE Digital

HEADQUARTERS: Atlanta
KEY EXECUTIVE: Monty Mullig, executive vice president and general manager, digital
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS: Make The Call, Final Four mobile concierge
THE SKINNY: Part of the larger CSE agency that’s also deep into player representation and marketing, the digital group has extensive relationships in college sports, and in particular has been able to create mobile apps with deep corporate branding, such as AT&T’s support of Make The Call and Coke Zero’s involvement with the Final Four mobile concierge.



Carbonhouse
Co-founders Brandon Lucas (left) and James Sack lead Carbonhouse.
Photo by: Nancy Pierce

HEADQUARTERS: Charlotte
KEY EXECUTIVES: James Sack, Brandon Lucas, partners
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS: Mobile apps and websites for hundreds of major sports arenas and stadiums
THE SKINNY: This developer has established itself as a go-to provider for digital products for sports and entertainment venues, working with major buildings such as Staples Center and Barclays Center, smaller college venues and everything in between. Carbonhouse was acquired this year by AEG, which provides synergy with that company’s venue operations.



Shotzoom

HEADQUARTERS: Scottsdale, Ariz.
KEY EXECUTIVE: Craig Prichard, president and CEO
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS: PGA TourCaddie; Golfplan with Paul Azinger; Tiger Woods: My Swing; Golfshot: Golf GPS
THE SKINNY: The market for mobile apps to serve golfers and golf fans is extremely crowded, but Shotzoom has carved out a leadership position with popular instructional products and through key partnerships with the PGA Tour and Tiger Woods.















Moshen Ltd.

HEADQUARTERS: Lancaster, England
KEY EXECUTIVE: Graham Baines, CEO
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS: Michael Johnson Motiv8, Michael Johnson Fun Run, Fantasy Premier League, Football 24, Official Chelsea FC, ICC Cricket
THE SKINNY: One of the go-to mobile developers in U.K. sports, Moshen has focused heavily on the music, gaming and entertainment sectors. The company also recently struck a deal in which Concha PLC, a London-based investment vehicle, bought a 40 percent stake in Moshen.










Willowtree Apps
HEADQUARTERS: Charlottesville, Va.
KEY EXECUTIVE: Tobias Dengel, CEO
KEY SPORTS PRODUCTS: Brooklyn Nets, NBA All-Star Game 2013, SB Nation, BigTeams, University of Virginia
THE SKINNY: As at some other firms, sports has been more of a late-emerging focus for WillowTree. But the company has had a recent run of basketball-related work through projects for the NBA and Nets, and its BigTeams suite of apps is part of a self-service solution enabling high school athletic departments to publish scores, schedules and other content.

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