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Sports Funding, M&A News- Sportradar's Tennis Product, March Madness Live, $120m Saudi Investment, Sports Lab's Innovation Drive, Sony's Esports World Cup, PGL & Perfect World's Strategic Alliance.

Updated: Apr 5




Sports Funding News April 2024
Sports Funding News April 2024

Get Exclusive Updates Of Sports Funding, Sports Mergers, Sports Acquisitions and Sports Partnerships


Welcome to ScoreCard, your monthly dose of the latest and greatest happenings in the dynamic world of sports and sports technology! In a rapidly evolving landscape, we understand the importance of staying informed and ahead of the curve. That's why we've created ScoreCard by SportsFirst to bring you a comprehensive roundup of the most exciting sports deals, startup funding alerts, mergers, acquisitions, and emerging technologies in the industry.


Every month, our dedicated team of experts curates the top stories and trends from the world of sports and sports tech, ensuring that you never miss a beat. We've got you covered from the latest mega-mergers to innovative startups shaking up the industry. We dive deep into sports to bring exclusive insights, expert analysis, and thought-provoking commentary on the hottest topics.


ScoreCard is more than just a newsletter; it's a community of like-minded enthusiasts, professionals, and visionaries passionate about the future of sports and sports technology. Our mission is to keep you informed, inspired, and engaged as we explore cutting-edge developments reshaping how we play, compete, and experience the thrill of sports.


Welcome aboard, and let the games begin! 🏆  



1) SPORTRADAR LAUNCHES NEW TENNIS PRODUCT



sportradar
sportradar


Sportradar is set to unveil its cutting-edge streaming technology at the Indian Wells Open, in collaboration with the ATP.

Dubbed 'Augmented Streaming', this innovative platform will furnish viewers with real-time data insights such as shot speed and serve velocity throughout the duration of the tennis tournament, slated to run from March 3rd to 17th in California.

Employing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, Sportradar's latest offering promises to deliver live data seamlessly integrated into match broadcasts.

Fans can expect to see live statistics seamlessly overlaid on their screens during match coverage, enhancing their viewing experience.

This development follows Sportradar's recent multi-year agreement with the ATP and Tennis Data Innovations (TDI), solidifying its global data and streaming rights for all ATP Tour events. Through this partnership, the Swiss-based firm aims to elevate fan engagement and foster commercial growth within the sport.


2) March Madness Live Enhances Viewing with Vertical Video and Apple Vision Pro Support



NCAA&Apple
NCAA&Apple

The 2024 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship offers hoops enthusiasts innovative viewing options through March Madness Live. This year, viewers can enjoy a novel vertical video stream that showcases concise, engaging content such as highlights, trending moments, and iconic performances, all navigable with a simple swipe.

March Madness Live, developed by TNT Sports in collaboration with the NCAA and CBS Sports, expands its reach to 19 platforms, notably including support for Apple Vision Pro this year. Users of Vision Pro can immerse themselves in all live matches, events, and exclusive on-demand footage.

To enhance the fan experience further, March Madness Live introduces the Perfect Bracket Tracker Widget, allowing fans to track the progress of remaining perfect brackets in real time throughout the tournament. This feature complements the return of the NCAA Bracket Challenge Game for both the Men's and Women’s Tournaments, offering fans the chance to compete in featured groups alongside well-known personalities.


3) Sony Group Becomes Founding Partner of Esports World Cup



Sony & Esports
Sony & Esports


The Esports World Cup Foundation ("EWCF") and Sony Group Corporation ("Sony") have forged a multi-year partnership to collaborate on initiatives for the Esports World Cup. This collaboration utilizes Sony's acclaimed gaming products and entertainment expertise alongside the EWC's vision to unite the global gaming and esports communities across the most popular games. It underscores a mutual ambition to broaden the appeal of gaming and esports to players and fans worldwide. The inaugural Esports World Cup 2024 is scheduled to take place this summer in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


As part of this agreement, Sony Pictures Entertainment will produce a behind-the-scenes documentary series showcasing the players and games of the Esports World Cup. Sony, in conjunction with Sony Interactive Entertainment, will also explore additional opportunities to support promising creators and talent in the region. Sony Music Entertainment will produce the music anthem of the Esports World Cup 2024.


"Sony is the perfect partner for the Esports World Cup," said Ralf Reichert, CEO of the Esports World Cup Foundation. "Our goal is to establish a global platform for esports and gaming that sets new standards for live esports events. Sony's experience in creating stunning visuals, engaging music, compelling storytelling, and state-of-the-art technology will be pivotal for the Esports World Cup. The EWC aims to elevate esports to the next level, and we are thrilled to leverage Sony's world-class expertise in this endeavor."


"We're excited to enhance the Esports World Cup experience for fans globally by harnessing the creativity and technology from across our diverse businesses," said Toshimoto Mitomo, Executive Deputy President and CSO of Sony Group Corporation. "Sony has been enhancing the esports experience, particularly with Sony Interactive Entertainment's initiatives such as PlayStation Tournaments and the annual EVO fighting game series. We look forward to further serving this growing, global community of players and fans with the Esports World Cup."


With the Esports World Cup, EWCF has created an unprecedented celebration of competitive gaming and esports fandom. This summer, top esports organizations will compete in Riyadh in a unique cross-game structure for the largest prize pool in esports history. Recently, the EWC announced the addition of ten popular titles - Dota 2, Counter-Strike 2, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Honor of Kings, PUBG, PUBG Mobile, Overwatch, Free Fire, Rocket League, Fortnite, and Rainbow Six Siege - as participating games. More games will be announced soon.


4) Saudi Arabia unveils $120m esports and gaming investment funds at LEAP 2024



LEAP & NDF
LEAP & NDF

Saudi Arabia's National Development Fund (NDF) has recently revealed the launch of two venture funds in collaboration with the country's Social Development Bank (SDB).


This announcement came during the LEAP 2024 technology conference held in Riyadh last week. The funds are valued at SAR 450 million, which is approximately £93.81 million or $120 million.


These funds are part of the Gaming and Esports Financing Programme, aimed at providing financial support to gaming and esports companies through equity investments. The objective is to expedite their growth and enhance their economic and social influence.


The first fund, managed by Merak Capital, is allocated a total of SAR 300 million and is designed to establish a gaming accelerator program supported by venture investments, aiming to position Saudi companies as leaders in the esports industry.


The second fund, under the management of consulting firm IMPACT46, seeks to encourage private-sector investment in the local gaming and esports industry. With a total size of SAR 150 million, this fund aims to attract firms and studios to establish a stronger presence in the country.


In recent years, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a significant player in the esports industry, hosting major global competitions such as the Esports World Cup. Despite facing economic challenges, the country has made substantial investments in the sector.


Saudi Arabia has faced criticism for its perceived attempt to use esports as a way to divert attention from its human rights record, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as 'esports washing'.





5) Future of Sport Lab and Relay Ventures Collaborate to Drive Innovation in Sports Technology


Sport lab & relayventures
Sport lab & relayventures

The Future of Sport Lab has been making significant progress in advancing the SportsTech sector. So far, the lab has graduated 19 startups, which have collectively raised over $75 million in new investments and forged numerous important partnerships within the sports industry. Among the successful alumni are Spalk, Zone 7, BookSeats, and The Gist, all of whom have been pioneers in innovating the sports industry. The lab is backed by a team of over 20 senior industry advisors and executives from leading sports organizations.


Dr. Cheri Bradish, the Founder and Managing Director of Future of Sport Lab, expressed excitement about the partnership with Relay Ventures, a renowned early-stage investment firm. According to Dr. Bradish, this collaboration will further accelerate the development of innovative sports technologies, providing Canadian startups with the necessary funding to drive their businesses forward.


Simon Sokol, Vice President of Relay Ventures, also shared his enthusiasm about the partnership with Future of Sport Lab. He emphasized their commitment to supporting SportsTech startups and bringing further innovation to the sports industry. Together, they aim to provide early-stage startups with the capital and resources needed to disrupt the rapidly changing world of sports, media, and entertainment.


6) During the 2023 season, the NFL experimented with optical tracking devices for line-to-gain determinations.


NFL
NFL

During the previous NFL season, optical tracking was experimented with in two stadiums, as well as during Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, according to reports from NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero citing league officials.


However, Pelissero stated that the technology is not likely to be ready for implementation in the 2024 season and would necessitate a vote from team ownership to proceed.

Traditionally, the NFL has relied on the metal chain method for determining first downs, but with technological advancements, there has been increased scrutiny over its accuracy.

Additionally, the NFL is exploring the integration of other technologies into games. This includes a proposed replay system equipped with high-resolution cameras positioned along the goal line, sideline, and end lines, as well as a Skeletrack System designed to track the ball, players, and officials. Furthermore, there have been discussions regarding the potential use of smartwatches with haptic feedback to aid officials in their decision-making process, with the possibility of introducing them as early as the upcoming season.


7) NHL announcers on ESPN set to don VR headsets for upcoming broadcasts.



ESPN & NHL
ESPN & NHL


Innovation often faces initial skepticism before proving its worth, a pattern seen from the bicycle to the iPhone. As Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz noted, groundbreaking developments often emerge looking like mere toys.

In the realm of sports media, significant advancements are emerging from unexpected sources, such as children's entertainment. Nickelodeon's NFL broadcasts have showcased augmented reality technology, while ESPN's recent integration of player tracking capabilities in a Toy Story-themed game highlights this trend.

This week, ESPN is introducing another innovative element with the incorporation of virtual reality (VR) headsets in its NHL Big City Greens Classic broadcast. This live event, set within the fictional world of a Disney Channel show, will feature ESPN commentators Drew Carter, Kevin Weekes, and Arda Öcal wearing Meta Quest Pro headsets during the Pittsburgh Penguins-Boston Bruins game.

Initially hesitant, commentator Drew Carter adjusted to the new setup, finding ways to maintain his familiar approach while immersing himself in the digital environment. Unlike last year's system, which captured full-body movements, this year's setup focuses on head and arm tracking, limiting the commentators' view of the room around them.

Despite these trade-offs, Carter anticipates a heightened sense of immersion, with enhancements such as viewing his notes below the goggles and seeing jumbotron versions of the live game and broadcast above the virtual rink. Carter will be represented by a cartoon avatar and will interact with characters from the Big City Greens universe during the broadcast.

This integration of VR technology is made possible through collaboration with Beyond Sports, coinciding with ESPN's recent partnership with Meta. Beyond Sports' CEO, Sander Schouten sees this as a significant step towards eventually involving fans in the VR experience, envisioning a future where viewers could wear headsets themselves.

Moreover, this innovation may extend beyond hockey broadcasts, with potential applications in other sports and forms of media. As VR and eye-tracking technologies advance, commentators could use headsets to offer unique perspectives, such as showing a quarterback's view during a play or conducting post-game interviews with virtual personalities.

Overall, ESPN's adoption of VR technology in its NHL broadcast represents a notable advancement in sports media, with the potential to reshape how audiences engage with live events in the future.


8) NWSL Secures Multi-Year Agreement with Amazon


Amazon & NWSL
Amazon & NWSL

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has recently announced a multi-year sponsorship deal with Amazon, naming them as the Exclusive Retail Sponsor. As part of this collaboration, Amazon Prime will be the presenting partner for the NWSL’s Best XI Awards, recognizing outstanding players monthly and allowing fans to vote for the top 22 players at the end of the season. Additionally, Amazon has become an official NWSL licensee, offering a wide range of officially licensed NWSL products on Amazon Fan Shop, including apparel and merchandise for all teams. Prime members will benefit from fast, free delivery on orders.


Moreover, the partnership involves utilizing Amazon Web Services (AWS) to migrate match content from previous seasons, creating a cloud-based media archive for historical footage, and enhancing fan engagement with highlights and behind-the-scenes content. AWS and Prime Video will also test a cloud-based game production solution for NWSL matches to improve efficiency, lower production costs, and enhance sustainability.


Julie Haddon, NWSL's Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer, expressed excitement about integrating Amazon more deeply into the NWSL family, highlighting Amazon’s global reach and customer-centric approach as a perfect fit for the league's fan-focused ethos. This partnership aims to amplify NWSL fandom and growth while providing fans with an easy and accessible way to support their favorite teams and athletes.




9) ECB extends Vitality partner for three years



ECB
ECB


The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and Vitality have announced an extension and expansion of their partnership for three more years. This means that Vitality will continue as the main sponsor for various cricket events, including Men’s and Women’s International T20s, the T20 Blast, and recreational T20 cricket. They will also remain the Official Wellness Partner for The Hundred and Test cricket, with their branding displayed on The Hundred players’ shirts and training wear.


Additionally, Vitality will now be the title sponsor of the Vitality County Championship in 2024. This partnership aims to promote health and well-being, encourage participation in cricket, and promote active lifestyles.


Alex Perkins, Commercial Director at the ECB, expressed satisfaction with continuing the partnership and acknowledged Vitality's longstanding support for cricket since 2013. He looks forward to further collaboration with Vitality in promoting healthy lifestyles through cricket.

10) Simple Bet Introduces Game Tracker for March Madness Synced with Micro-Betting Markets Across Operator Partners like Betr and DraftKings


Draftkings
Draftkings

Simplebet is set to unveil a game tracker across various operator partners in anticipation of the upcoming NCAA tournament, famously known as March Madness. Through platforms like Betr and DraftKings, enthusiasts can seamlessly monitor matches aligned with Simplebet’s micro-betting markets, offering an immersive in-play betting experience complete with animated plays, visualizations, and pertinent statistics to inform their wagers.

Throughout the 2023-24 NCAA basketball season, Simplebet introduced distinctive market offerings, such as predicting outcomes based on specific possessions, like whether a player's next possession would result in a particular score. This season has marked a significant success for the company, with a remarkable 2.45 million bets placed across all its partners, representing a nearly one million increase compared to the same period last season.

CEO Chris Bevilacqua expressed excitement about the launch of their March Madness game tracker, emphasizing its status as a cutting-edge product essential for operator integration. This innovative tracker promises bettors a seamless single-screen experience, enabling them to stay abreast of real-time game action and place bets accordingly throughout the tournament, fostering heightened engagement.

In related sports betting developments, Kambi has recently incorporated Abios’ soccer odds product into its sportsbook platform.


11) The $8.5 billion Reliance-Disney partnership establishes a dominant sports content platform.



Reliance & Disney
Reliance & Disney


Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Viacom18, and The Walt Disney Company have officially confirmed the execution of binding final agreements to establish a joint venture ("JV") combining the businesses of Viacom18 and Star India.


The integration of Viacom18's media business with Star India Private Limited will be carried out through a court-approved scheme of arrangement as part of this transaction.


RIL has pledged to fund the JV with a final investment of INR 11,500 crore (approximately US$1.4 billion) as part of its growth strategy.


After accounting for synergies, the transaction values the JV at INR 70,352 crore (about US$8.5 billion). Following the outlined procedures, RIL will hold a 16.34% ownership stake in the JV, with Viacom18 holding 46.82% and Disney holding 36.84%.


Disney may potentially contribute additional media properties to the joint venture, subject to regulatory approvals and other external factors.


Mrs. Nita M. Ambani will lead the JV as its chairperson, with Mr. Uday Shankar serving as vice chairperson to provide strategic direction.


Mukesh D Ambani, Chairman & Managing Director of Reliance Industries, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, stating, "We hold Disney in high regard as the premier global media group. We are thrilled to forge this strategic joint venture, leveraging our combined extensive resources, creative capabilities, and market insights to deliver exceptional content to audiences nationwide at competitive prices. We warmly welcome Disney as a significant partner of the Reliance group."


12) PGL and Perfect World Form Strategic Esports Alliance for 2024-2026 Seasons


PGL, a renowned esports event organizer, announced an exciting strategic alliance with Perfect World, a global entertainment powerhouse, spanning the seasons of 2024, 2025, and 2026. This groundbreaking partnership aims to redefine the esports arena, encompassing competitions in DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike 2, along with broadcast and production endeavors, while also exploring innovative co-branding opportunities.


At the core of this collaboration are the highly popular esports titles, DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike 2, promising fans an enhanced and immersive gaming experience. PGL and Perfect World are jointly dedicated to delivering top-tier tournaments that engage audiences worldwide.


The agreement establishes a Tournament Cooperation between Perfect World and PGL, facilitating strategic collaboration in key areas such as publicity and promotion, production, and technical support. This synergy aims to raise the bar for esports tournaments, establishing new benchmarks in the industry.


As part of the strategic partnership, PGL will handle the production of all Perfect World events in English and will hold global rights, excluding China. Leveraging PGL's extensive global reach and expertise, this aspect of the partnership ensures that audiences outside of China can access high-caliber tournaments seamlessly.


Conversely, Perfect World will take charge of producing all PGL China events, securing exclusive rights for the Chinese market. This entails the complete event production in Chinese, ensuring a tailored and superior viewing experience for the Chinese audience. Perfect World's deep understanding of the Chinese market will significantly enhance the impact of PGL events in the region.


An exciting aspect of this collaboration is the exploration of co-branding opportunities, aiming to leverage the distinctive strengths and identities of both entities to create initiatives that resonate with the gaming community. This opens up possibilities for innovative collaborations and unique content reflecting the essence of both organizations.


This partnership signifies a strategic move for both PGL and Perfect World, ensuring seamless execution and elevating the esports experience for fans globally. As they embark on the journey through the 2024-2026 seasons, the collaboration is poised to evolve dynamically with innovative initiatives shaping the competitive gaming landscape.




13) Basketball Forever Secures $4 Million in Series Funding



Basketball Forever
Basketball Forever

Basketball Forever, a rapidly growing sports media brand, recently announced the successful completion of its Series A funding round, securing over $4 million USD. Yolo Investments led the fundraising efforts, with contributions from Astralis Capital Management, Andover Ventures, and notable individuals like Seth Young from FSG Digital, GMA Consulting, Paris Smith, a former CEO of Pinnacle Sports, and now a consultant in betting and gaming, as well as David Sargeant from iGaming Ideas, Chris Grove from Acies Investments, and Benjie Cherniak from Avenue H Capital. With plans to expand its presence in North America, Basketball Forever intends to use these funds to grow its audience, explore new areas beyond basketball, and enhance its gaming offerings, both free and for real money.


Alex Sumsky, CEO and co-founder of Forever Network expressed excitement about the investment, emphasizing its importance in supporting the company's profitable growth and strategic expansion into sports betting and daily fantasy sports. Sumsky highlighted the investment's role in exploring new opportunities, expanding the North American team, and improving the user experience to become a leader in the market.


Founded in 2015, Basketball Forever has become a leading digital media platform, providing extensive coverage of basketball worldwide. Originating in Australia, the company has grown its brand naturally, now reaching over 110 million unique visitors worldwide each month. With a high Shareablee score from Comscore, it is ranked as the top sports publisher among millennials. While initially focused on the Australian market, the platform has gained a significant following in the United States, with 45 million unique monthly visitors and 4 billion impressions across all social channels in 2023.

14) Rebet Launches Free-to-Play Social Sportsbook


rebet
rebet

Rebet, a new social sportsbook that's free to play, has just launched its official app. The Rebet App is now available for download in the App Store across 47 U.S. states. It aims to change the way people experience sports betting by introducing unique features like a social sportsbook, contests between peers, and social feeds.


The app provides access to real-time data for over 60 professional and college sports leagues, giving users a comprehensive sports betting experience.


Founded by current students at Dartmouth College with diverse skills in economics, technology, entrepreneurship, and software development, Rebet focuses on building a community-centered platform. It's free to use and offers innovative features to make sports betting enjoyable and inclusive for everyone. The goal is to connect sports fans, allowing them to share their passion for sports.


Carson Hubbard, CEO of Rebet, believes that sports fandom is about social interaction and community, which has been missing from traditional and social sportsbooks until now. Rebet aims to change that by combining essential elements of sports betting into one interactive app.


Rebet offers a unique social media feed where users can follow others, make posts, comment, and send direct messages, creating an engaging community atmosphere.


Bella DiGiovanni, CMO of Rebet, describes the launch as historic, bringing together the sports betting community like never before with unprecedented features and access to official data.


The app introduces the "Rebet" button, allowing users to duplicate anyone's pick with a simple click, promoting collaboration among users. It also features peer-to-peer contests, where users can challenge their friends directly, setting their own terms and making the experience more interactive.


Rebet aims to transform the sports betting experience into a personal duel of wits and prediction prowess by empowering users to create personalized contests and compete in a dynamic environment.


In summary, Rebet is a free-to-play social sportsbook that aims to connect sports fans and provide an engaging sports betting experience through its innovative features and community-centered approach.


15) Diamond Kinetics Expedites Advancements in Youth Sports Technology Through the Acquisition of sidelineHD


Dimamonds Kinetics
Dimamonds Kinetics


Diamond Kinetics (DK), a prominent sports technology firm focusing on youth baseball and softball development, has announced its acquisition of sidelineHD, an innovative youth sports media platform known for its expertise in live streaming and video highlights. This acquisition reflects DK's dedication to incorporating advanced technology to enhance player experiences and nurture a passion for the sport.


sidelineHD has transformed youth sports by enabling parents to produce high-quality live streams of games, complete with integrated scoreboards, player profiles, and real-time sports data. Through the use of AI, sidelineHD automatically generates highlights and video clips, providing players and families with the opportunity to instantly share engaging content on social media. This not only creates lasting memories but also fuels players' enthusiasm for the game and aspirations to excel. Additionally, sidelineHD connects with recruitment platforms and other services, offering tangible benefits to today's youth players.


SidelineHD is set to remain an independent application, with its features being seamlessly integrated into both current and upcoming products within the DK portfolio. DK is dedicated to further enhancing SidelineHD's offerings, enriching the streaming experience, and providing additional value. Within the DK ecosystem, young athletes will find exclusive avenues for personal expression, enhancing the enjoyment of live streaming while also producing unique highlight reels tailored for sharing on social platforms.


This expansion and other growth strategies are backed by investments from Diamond Kinetics' strategic capital partners, notably Elysian Park Ventures and TNC Ventures. This underscores their ongoing commitment to fostering innovation in youth sports. Noteworthy existing investors in Diamond Kinetics include Elysian Park Ventures, TNC Ventures, SeventySix Capital, and Eberg Capital, among others.


16) True Gamers unveils plans to create $280m esports island



True gamers
True gamers


True Gamers, a network of esports lounges, has revealed plans to construct a large-scale 'esports island' near Abu Dhabi, UAE. This island will host training facilities, tournament venues, content creation spaces, and hotels for gamers and esports professionals.


To make this project a reality, True Gamers is seeking $280 million from investors to purchase the island and develop all necessary facilities. The idea stemmed from extensive research involving over 100 esports organizations, including teams like Virtus. Pro, Team Spirit, and BetBoom.


The island will be divided into different areas for training, tournaments, and accommodation. The Digital Tower will serve as the main hub, featuring meeting spaces, startup accelerators, and animation studios. Additionally, the TG Arena will host esports tournaments and provide gaming facilities.


A boot camp section will offer accommodation and training facilities designed with input from team managers worldwide. The GG Resort will provide 200 rooms equipped with gaming PCs alongside typical hotel amenities.


The island will also incorporate fun elements like a 'parachute jump check-in' inspired by the game PUBG. Architects Abdullah bin Baz and Haitham Khojali are part of the team designing the island.


While the exact opening date is not yet confirmed, the creators expect to see a return on investment within 10 years of Esports Island's launch.





As the sports industry continues to grow and evolve, we can expect to see even more exciting funding and acquisition deals in the future. These deals will not only shape the landscape of the industry but also provide opportunities for new players to enter the market and for existing players to expand their reach. Whether it's through new technologies, innovative partnerships, or strategic acquisitions, the sports industry is sure to remain a hotbed of activity for years to come. So stay tuned for more updates and insights on the latest developments in this fast-paced and exciting field.


ScoreCard is for every Sports enthusiast. So, whether you're an athlete, a fan, an investor, or an entrepreneur in the sports and sports tech realm, ScoreCard is the perfect companion for staying up-to-date and inspired. Gear up for an exciting journey, as we embark on this adventure to stay ahead in the game!


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