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Volume 7 No. 149
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New Social Media Network Dugout Promises To Give Fans Behind-The-Scenes Access

A start-up backed by "some of Europe’s biggest football clubs" has launched a website that gives fans "behind-the-scenes access to teams and players," according to James Hurley of the LONDON TIMES. Dugout, which is understood to count Man City, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Paris St. Germain among its shareholders, plans to capitalize on the popularity of the sport on social media and the "trend for younger supporters to follow multiple clubs." Investors include retail tycoon Philip Green, Liverpool, Chelsea and Juventus. Chelsea Chair Bruce Buck is a director of the business, according to Companies House filings. Through a website and apps that are free to use, Dugout "will host videos and articles created by clubs and individual players." It aims to make money through advertising and will share revenue and data on fans with clubs. Elliot Richardson, a former insurance exec who is co-founder and president, said, "Publishers are reaching a huge audience, but not necessarily monetizing that content, and football clubs and players are publishers now." He added that the business hoped to help clubs to "reach and understand more about a global audience" of young fans. Richardson: "Football rights have been sold all over the world and the level of knowledge is amazing. But at the moment, the clubs don’t understand enough about this audience." The company’s research of 24,000 fans worldwide found that "younger supporters followed an average of 4.6 clubs." He said that supporters in Asia, for example, "often followed clubs across a number of European leagues," while fans increasingly followed individual players as well as teams. Richardson said, "It is quite alien to [the older] fan, but it is becoming much less tribal than previous generations" (LONDON TIMES, 11/28).

STAR POWER: In London, Mark Sweney reported Dugout has also signed partnerships with more than 150 players including Real Madrid's Gareth Bale, Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, PSG's Edinson Cavani, Torino's Joe Hart and Barcelona's Neymar and launched globally on Monday in eight languages. Dugout, which claims it is "the first time so many of the world’s major clubs have united for a commercial venture, is aiming to build a huge fan base" by offering content exclusively up to 24 hours before it is released on any other social media network. The company "would not reveal the shareholder structure," but senior execs of seven clubs -- PSG, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal, Juventus and Chelsea -- are listed as directors, according to filings at Companies House. Growing interest in Asia "means that at launch one of the languages the multi-platform Dugout will be offered in is Indonesian." The company has hired Kate Burns, the former Google, AOL and Buzzfeed exec, as exec VP to drive commercializing Dugout (GUARDIAN, 11/27).

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: QUARTZ's Joon Ian Wong reported if enough fans sign up, then Dugout "has a shot at grabbing some of the marketing and advertising dollars" that currently flow to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or WeChat. Marketing to sports fans on social media "makes sense as cord-cutting continues to gain momentum." Twitter, for instance, "is investing in live-streaming deals with the NBA and others to turn itself into a destination for watching a game live," and for participating in the chatter around it. It is "unclear how Dugout will compete against the network effects of existing social media behemoths like Facebook and Twitter." The new platform has "only rudimentary interaction features, like the ability to comment on a piece of content, or to select an emoji-like response," much like Facebook reactions. There are "no live-streams, stickers, or animated GIFs, unlike on Facebook." Users can "follow" clubs or players, much like Twitter, "but it lacks the unfiltered immediacy that Twitter offers" (QUARTZ, 11/28).