PlayUp Brings its Fan-Interaction App to the Olympics

Fan interaction app PlayUp, which made its name this spring with several pro-athlete chat rooms for big events, is stepping up its own game with a new release of the app just in time for the London Olympics.

Announced today, version 3.1 of the PlayUp app for the iOS platform adds some interesting new features, including third-party content and sports news, as well as targeted sports feeds by the user’s geographic location. This feature, PlayUp said, brings the most regionally relevant content to the forefront when a user launches the app. PlayUp can be downloaded free from the iTunes store.

The PlayUp app, which gives sports fans the ability to track teams, scores and to converse with other fans in either small or large, or private or public groups, will now bring that interaction to the Olympic games, which begin July 25 and go until Aug. 12. The PlayUp app will give fans real-time results, standings and leaderboards for almost all the events, in addition to the app’s signature ability to let fans talk smack, agree and cheer, or otherwise communicate with friends and fans worldwide about their favorite sports.

What should be interesting is to see how third-party entities contribute to the PlayUp app to make the experience richer for PlayUp users. (You may even see some Mobile Sports Report content there soon, so keep your eyes peeled.) The app already has news feeds featuring stories from Yahoo, ESPN and CBS, so PlayUp has you covered when it comes to quick coverage from the top media outlets. The MSR take here is that more integration and aggregation is better for fans, who don’t have to leave an app to check, say, a Twitter feed. The challenge for PlayUp will be to convince partners that their app can bring in new sports-savvy users.

“Now sports fanatics can turn to PlayUp to get sports content, stats, Twitter feeds and more, and can be assured to get their sports fix even when no live games are being played,” said PlayUp CEO Dennis Lee in a press release. “We now also have the opportunity to connect brands and developers with sports fans and provide these third-parties with more effective ways to connect with potential customers across the globe. There is no bigger and better event to showcase PlayUp’s new features than the Olympics.”

SportStream’s rebirth Focuses on All Sports

One of the first sports chat and fan interactive apps that we looked at here at Mobile Sports Report was one called SportStream, at the time the first app from a startup developer named Evri, which was also focusing on developing a real time content engine.

A lot has changed since last September when the app was first being shown around it had a football focus, was part of Evri and ran on both Android and Apple’s iOS platform. Well that has all changed. iPad users will love the new version of the app, currently it does not run on other platforms.

That is not too surprising considering how prevalent it is for tablet users to employ the device as a second screen while watching sports and a bigger display is easier to follow all of the chatter rather than using your phone.

Evri has set the app free to be a standalone development, although it is being led by Will Hunsinger, who led its development at Evri. It has its own funding from Vulcan Capital, also the venture capital firm that has funded Evri. Its first round of funding netted the company $3.5 million from Vulcan.

There is also a change in focus or possibly an expansion rather. Initially available as a SportStream Football as a place for fans to gather, follow scores and post comments, and that is no longer available, although it said that it will add that feature when the season begins. It currently handles the end of the NBA season as well as MLB. Hockey will also be added when the season starts up later this year.

You can add teams as favorites, and their games will be automatically added to a feature called game picker, but you can add any game that you wish to that feature as well. Tap the screen to enter into viewing the game info and check in to a game from the game picker list to participate in the conversation. Once checked in you can also post to twitter or Facebook.

The app does have one very nice feature that many will probably find very useful, that is the ability to filter out twitter streams and block specific users that are uninteresting, rude, or for whatever reason that you might want including simply data overload. The app uses a Facebook check in, which seems to me to be a bit limiting because many might not want to use that avenue to access it.

It seems that almost daily a new chat app is available; some like Bantr and Golf GameBook aimed at one specific category of fans and others including FanCru, GrabFan, JockTalk and PlayUp open to a broader base of fans and so more directly compete with SportsStream. However almost all of its rivals have come out on iPhone first, while SportStream selected the iPad first.

It is hard to predict how the interactive fan sites and apps will work out, but I suspect that the market is already reaching its limits as to how many apps it will support. However having a big cash funding round should help serve SportStream very well. Many other apps appear to be mostly self funded and as Facebook has shown, generating ad revenue from mobile is tough and so may take longer than some developers have.

NBA Pros Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings Will ‘Hang Out’ on PlayUp App During NBA Finals

Fan interaction app PlayUp has announced that it will be hosting a couple NBA pros — the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Milwaukee Bucks’ Brandon Jennings — who will “hang out” in special PlayUp chat rooms during the NBA Finals.

Up first tonight is Golden State’s Curry, “hanging out” in a virtual room on the PlayUp app. If you’ve never tried PlayUp the pro player rooms are a good way to start, since the pros and fans are motivated to have a good interaction. We checked out one such interaction during the NCAA tournament and found it interesting.

“PlayUp is once again offering fans an incredible opportunity to connect with two of the most likeable
budding superstars during what is sure to be an exciting and memorable NBA Finals,” said PlayUp USA
CEO Dennis Lee in a press release. “We are extremely proud to offer a platform for Stephen and Brandon to showcase their
great personalities to fans.”

(If you don’t have the PlayUp app installed yet you can get it here.)

Fancru Takes up the Sports Fan Chat Challenge

Fans like to talk with fans, at least ones that share similar allegiances, and Fancru is seeking to exploit that with its sports app that will enable groups of like minded fans to chat as well as allowing you to reach out to your friends.

If this sounds a bit familiar it is. There are several other apps that are seeking to establish themselves as platform for fan interaction and FanCru realizes that it has to step up to the plate big time to enable it to be recognized above the noise in this space.

The app, currently only available for the iPhone (it will work on an iPad but is not optimized) is the brainchild of John Wagner, Fancru’s co-founder and president and Bill Diamond, co-founder and CEO. Wagner is a self proclaimed sports nut who constantly watches games and saw this as an opportunity for fans to share experiences with others both attending the sporting events and those following elsewhere.

The app has several different distinct functions, and in some ways it reminds you of a host of other apps such as Foursquare, since you can log in your location, ESPN, since it gives you scores, and rival apps such as Recapp which provide news articles about selected teams.

Similarities aside it has a game feed that connects you to other fans following an event. Then on top of that there is the Cheer & Vent function that allows you to vent etc as well as post images from where ever you are.

You establish an account and then select the sports teams and leagues that you want to follow-NFL, NCAA Football, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS and Brazilian Soccer. Add the teams you want and then you can connect to them via Facebook, Twitter, searching your address book, SMS and the old fashion way by including their names manually. You can check to see which teams have the most fans and earn points for prizes by doing various actions.

The company’s first version of the app, for all practical purposes a beta release, provided it with plenty of user feedback that it used to incorporate in its current offering. But it is not just listening to what fans think of the product that is important to the company. Available now for the iPhone the company is working on an Android release and then will optimize its iPhone app to efficiently run on iPads.

Fancru is taking an interesting approach in that it is seeking to engage teams and leagues into using its technology as possibly a front end to an app that the teams might be developing by opening up its SDK and APIs up to the market freely available.

It is hard to predict how that will work out for the larger, more established leagues such as the NFL and MLB. Right now MLB has AtBat as its official app, which it own. However MLB has been very proactive in trying to engage fans via a series of apps and contests and having like minded fans chat during games would seem to fall into the direction it is taking. There is also an effort to allow teams to add a local flavor to AtBat so that while the league might not adopt the technology local teams might have that option.

In addition Fancru has been accruing analytics about what its users are doing and so it would enable teams to better meet fans wants and needs, Wager points out. He sees the app as a valuable tool to teams that want to bring fans out to the events in a day when many have huge high definition televisions and are content with watching at home.

By enabling a team to have contests that could be centered on a game, a player or a section of seats it can bring fans into more active participation and with that more active attendance.

A challenge to an app of this sort will be breaking through the noise. The Apple App store has almost a million apps currently. There are slightly older rival apps that either point to a single sport such as GolfGamebook or are also more broadly based such as GrabFan, PlayUp and Kwarter.

Being a relatively new category helps since there really is not established leader and they are all facing the same uphill battle. In addition stadiums and leagues are only ow upgrading their wireless capabilities to enable in-game fan interaction. I suspect that within a year or two a huge number of fans will be using a chat technology that connects them to others in and out of the stadium.

JockTalk Gets Pub, Plans to Enter Crowded Sports Social Network Field

Since we haven’t yet talked to the folks behind JockTalk it’s hard to surmise exactly how their proposed sports social media network is going to be better than anything out there today. We read some of the stories, we get the basic idea — create a space for athletes and fans to hang out, and monetize on the traffic — but so far we have seen nothing in any of the stories in the media rounds the company has made that sets JockTalk apart from the crowd.

The idea that athletes should find a better place to monetize their social media presence other than just Twitter or Facebook isn’t exactly new. Here at MSR we have been closely tracking three such efforts, including PlayUp (which regularly hosts pro player “hangout” rooms online), Viva Vision and Gridiron Grunts. The leaders of Viva Vision, ex-NFLers Joe Tafoya and Kerry Carter, have been especially vocal about seeking to help individual players build their own online interaction centers, either for profit, charity or exposure. The Viva team is working on a prototype app for Dallas Mavericks star Jason Terry that is comprehensive, with lots of multimedia hooks and commerce opportunities.

And the Gridiron Grunts team, led by ex-NFLers Jeb Terry and Ryan Nece, already have an extensive crew of “grunters” contributing in a unique fashion, by simply calling in their takes on their phones so that fans can listen in a like fashion.

If JockTalk is able to create some kind of top-athlete commons that attracts a lot of traffic, it might be able to grab some space in the market. But from a fan standpoint when it comes to aggregation we like the approach taken by Bleacher Report, which curates the best content from anywhere on the web and presents it segregated by teams, which is how we think most fans still follow sports. So good luck to JockTalk, which we are excited to see. But do note that this game has already started.

Sponsor Post: Have You Tried PlayUp?

If you like talking about sports online with your friends — or with other fans, or even professional athletes — you should give the PlayUp fan interaction app a try. During the recent NCAA Final Four weekend PlayUp had some former NCAA stars on its site holding court, chatting back and forth with fans online.

If you like to Tweet or text message during a game, download PlayUp and give it a try the next time around. I found it more responsive and more direct than wading through Twitter traffic. You can click here to download the app for your iPhone.

(PlayUp is a sponsor of Mobile Sports Report.)