PlayUp USA CEO Press says, ‘We’re Going to Deliver an Uppercut’

Over 75,000 people worldwide have downloaded a new, free iPhone and iPad application that provides the largest slate of sports scores available in the sports social media market, but the CEO of the company says PlayUp has just scratched the surface in what it can do.

Jonathan Press, CEO of PlayUp USA,  said an Android version of PlayUp is imminent. An Android version will significantly expand PlayUp USA’s potential user base, and turn up the competition for other companies looking to carve out a niche in the mobile sports application space. In addition, free games, premium content, paid games, micro transactions and paid advertising and sponsorship are all in PlayUp USA’s game plan, Press said. In fact, some free games will appear in a new rev of the PlayUp application around the end of the year, he added.

“We’re going to deliver an uppercut, and that punch will be the games we will be rolling into PlayUp,” said Press, an affable New Yorker who prefers you call him “JP” and previously worked as a VP of marketing and partnerships for the NBA and executive vice president at tech-startup T-INK Technologies.

PlayUp has smoke, and fire

What is PlayUp, and why does what Press have to say matter?

Based in Australia, PlayUp is an 80-strong company that has raised over $73 million to do battle with ESPN, SB Nation (now part of Vox Media), Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports and others for sports fans who want to enhance their viewing experience using mobile applications, according to an earlier article.

Out of nowhere, PlayUp has established one of the largest user bases to date for a sports social media application since its Oct. 25 debut.

Needham & Co. research director Laura Martin: "PlayUp @ the forefront of the nexus."

“Sports content will be transformed by mobile and social media applications over the next decade,” said Laura Martin, managing director at the research firm Needham & Company LLC.   “PlayUp sits at the forefront of that nexus. ”

PlayUp appears to know where it is going.

In his first in-depth interview, PlayUp’s top U.S. executive told MobileSportsReport that, through mobile applications, PlayUp plans to change the ways in which people engage in fantasy sports, purchase team merchandise or get together to share high-value sports information.

Inside the PlayUp mobile sports application

PlayUp USA CEO Jonathan Press: former NBA executive leads mobile sports upstart

Today, PlayUp provides its consumers with the broadest slate of live sports scores available to a mobile device. Despite the number of downloads since its launch, PlayUp has yet to be recognized as a player in the sports-score space.

In a recent survey of the top mobile sports trackers, influential blog LifeTracker ranked ESPN ScorecenterYahoo! SportacularScoreMobileTwitter, and SportsTap as the top five mobile apps for live sports scores. PlayUp didn’t even make the list.

Obtaining much of its information through a licensing agreement with STATS and other information service providers, PlayUp concentrates on enabling sports fans to get up-to-the-minute information through the simplest of mobile sports interfaces. Beyond professional and college sports in the United States, it also provides international soccer, cricket, rugby scores.

In its current incarnation, PlayUp also delivers the ability to converse with others who are following the same games, but — unlike some competing applications — it allows sports fans to quickly choose whether they want to interact with a broad audience, small groups or just one another person.

“Everyone else appears to be going after the social communication piece (of mobile sports applications) with a broad approach,” Press said. “When Monday Night Football is on, you can enter a chat room and have everyone and their mother tell you how wonderful it is to have (San Diego Chargers Quarterback) Phillip Rivers fumble the football (in a game-deciding play on October 31 versus the Kansas City Chiefs).  We recognized early in the development of PlayUp that being able to easily express a comment to just your friends or another small group has value.

Then, during the interview, Press took a different tack in explaining PlayUp. A die-hard sports fan, who follows the New York Mets, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Rangers and New York Giants, he offered a real-world, personal example of PlayUp’s sports social media approach:

“Look…My father and I know more about the New York Giants than just about anyone else,” Press said. “So, when we’re both watching a game, why would we want or need to share the experience with anyone else?”

Reinventing Fantasy sports

PlayUp will continue to focus on sports scores and social media interaction among sports fans, but “what you are seeing right now are just two legs to a table we are building at PlayUp,” Press said. Yahoo! Sports clings to its status as the No. 1 fantasy sports portal by virtue of a loyal, established user base, but mobile sports applications could be a game changer, Press said.

About 32 million people play fantasy sports in the United States, making it an industry that generates between $3 billion and $4 billion annually, according to Fantasy Sports Trade Association data. PlayUp is developing “micro fantasy games,” which might allow mobile sports fans to bid on players on a daily basis, or even change out players during a game.

“Think about the problem with fantasy sports right now,” Press said. “If you drafted (beleaguered Tennessee Titans RB) Chris Johnson or (injured Indianapolis Colts QB) Peyton Manning at the start of the season, you are basically screwed for the season. Now, imagine a fantasy game where you can bid on players on a daily basis. That’s something we see happening in the near future.”


Independent and loving every minute

Establishing a sports media company in today’s landscape is a big challenge, given the footprints ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports, SB Nation and Bleacher Report enjoy, but Press says PlayUp’s 75,000 downloads indicate it can be done.

PlayUp’s focus will remain on defining its niche and making sure the application delivers to sports fans all the functionality the product promises, he said. Press wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a sponsorship deal, but said it is possible to build a significant sports social media brand without spending millions on advertising and promotion.

“We need sports fans to be on their device, and engaging with their device through our application,” he said. “We are in a day and age when word of mouth and viral marketing have a big impact. No longer is it necessary to make the big Super Bowl commercial buy to build awareness.”

The promise for PlayUp and others developing mobile sports applications are demographics and the nature of the sports viewing experience, said Needham’s Martin. By catering to sports fans, PlayUp and others are among the most effective aggregators of men age 18 years to 34 years old, which is the most desirable demographic for marketers, she pointed up. And, since sports is viewed live, mobile devices are an obvious platform to capture that audience, she added.



  1. Great piece! Sounds like this is the future of social sports.

  2. John, thank you. I appreciate the good words. PlayUp is off to a strong start. There’s little doubt that the strategy PlayUp articulates is the future of social sports. Like all start-ups, execution is everything. The question remains whether PlayUp can out innovative its competition in every aspect of the industry, including customer acquisition, application functionality, and partnerships and marketing.

    At the end of the day, just wants to see the sports fan win. An edgy upstart like PlayUp is going to drive others to push more aggressively toward the advancement of the 360-degree sports viewing experience. Is PlayUp the future of social sports? Could be, John, but these are early days and it is just too soon to crown the champions. To borrow from the great Howard Cosell, we’re just “telling it like it is.”


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