Tuesday 18th June 2019

NFLPA Bets on Blockchain-Backed Social Streaming Platform SportsCastr

NFLPA Bets on Blockchain-Backed Social Streaming Platform SportsCastr

NFLPA Bets on Blockchain-Backed Social Streaming Platform SportsCastr
The NFLPA is getting into the streaming business. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The NFL Players Association has become one of the first major U.S. sports organizations to bet on blockchain after scooping up a minority stake in SportsCastr. The social streaming platform is developing a Twitch-like service for traditional sports.

As part of the deal, current and retired NFL players can create content, and then be rewarded for that via cryptocurrency. This could see players acting as sportscasters for pro games, commenting on collegiate sports, or broadcasting behind-the-scenes views of their daily lives.

NFLPA President Ahmad Nassar said the opportunity will be open to 2,000 current football players and close to 20,000 former players. SportsCastr could help them to stake ground in the notoriously difficult to crack world of sports broadcasting, and even get paid for their efforts.

But the NFLPA’s investment in SportsCastr is about more than just getting athletes in front of the camera. The NFLPA’s OneTeam Collective invests in early stage companies that seek to leverage the NFLPA’s exclusive group player rights, in exchange for equity. SportsCastr is the eighth active NFLPA partner secured through the OneTeam Collective. 

As part of this agreement, SportsCastr has been named the official licensee of the NFLPA for mobile apps and web-based platforms that allow users to talk about sports topics through video streams and chats. According to Nassar, the NFLPA was also drawn to SportsCastr because of its strong list of backers, which includes former NBA Commissioner David Stern, Washington tight end Vernon Davis, and Syracuse University men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim.

“We’re really impressed with not only the tech of SportsCastr, but of the teams they’ve been putting together and the backgrounds they have,” said Nassar. “It’s an opportunity for the players and us as an organization.”

The NFLPA also sees this as a much broader streaming opportunity, with the platform developing an over-the-top social streaming service that could potentially one day compete with Twitch. SportsCastr operates under the same interactive premise as Twitch, an Amazon.com-owned social streaming platform that has been popularized by esports. Twitch recently started to adopt traditional sports as well thanks to Amazon’s digital rights partnerships with the NFL and NBA.

SportsCastr CEO Kevin April said his company is hoping to build a robust all-in-one sports ecosystem, with the social component of its OTT streaming service focused on professional, collegiate, and potentially one day even high school athletics. Its blockchain-based cryptocurrency FanChain aims to be the ubiquitous token of the sports industry. SportsCastr is also seeking opportunities to exclusively host sporting events on its platform, starting with the first half of a live UFC Fight Night event this September.

We see the NFLPA as a tentpole that we plan to be just the first of many partnerships with teams and leagues,” said April. “This September, we’re streaming our first live action sporting event, a live MMA fight on SportsCastr that anyone can jump in and add their own commentary to or choose their own commentator.”

There’s also, of course, the blockchain opportunity, though Nassar insists the two organizations were talking long before SportCastr announced FanChain in June.

With FanChain, users can virtually tip commentators (which will include NFLPA members) for live and exclusive videos via the FanChain token in the SportsCastr ecosystem. Users can also exchange tokens for unique access and perks, such as subscriptions to premium player channels, sports tickets, or backstage passes to events. Eventually, tokens will be integrated with third-party online publications, fantasy sports sites, social networks, media sites, and within the ecosystem of sports teams, leagues, and stadiums, so that content (and the FanChain cryptocurrency) can be even more widely distributed and used.

“Fans are looking for new ways to engage with the game of football and us, the athletes. SportsCastr’s live stream platform is a cool and fun way for fans to add their own voice to games while engaging with players in a different way,” said Davis, a SportsCastr investor and advisor. “As players we see the value in sharing more of our personalities and unique content with fans and we’re excited about where this live stream tech is headed.”

The first NFL players will begin using the platform this season.

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