Comcast Corp. is putting a full-court press on its competition as investors and startups discover new opportunities in the increasingly tech-driven sports arena.
The media giant has launched SportsTech, an accelerator focused on emerging sports technologies. Ten startups will be selected for the three-month program, which begins in August in Atlanta. In exchange for a minimum of 6% equity, participants will receive a $50,000 investment as well as a custom curriculum and access to industry professionals and athletes.
Comcast’s initial investment into SportsTech is more than $15 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Interest in sports technology has expanded as live streaming, esports and other developments spark opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs. Esports is projected to become a $1 billion mainstream industry, and, in a futher boost to the sector, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized sports betting in 2018.
“Most sports startups don’t have access to the resources they need to succeed nor an ability to develop relationships with the right people inside the industry,” said Jenna Kurath, vice president of Startup Partner Development, Comcast Cable, in a statement.
The accelerator will focus on eight investment areas, including fan and player engagement; media and entertainment; athlete and player performance; team and coach success; fantasy sports; venue and event innovation; the business of sports and esports.
SportsTech has partnered with a number of major sports media brands to offer advisory services and partnership opportunities for selected startups. Partners include three Comcast NBCUniversal entities — NBC Sports, Sky Sports and Golf Channel — as well as NASCAR, U.S. Ski & Snowboard, USA Swimming and Comcast Ventures, Comcast’s venture capital arm.
The initiative is Comcast’s third accelerator launched over the past three years. By taking early stakes in young companies, Comcast aims to gain a foothold in emerging entertainment technologies before its competitors and create additional revenue streams for itself.
- The value of the overall North American sports market almost doubled over the last decade, from $48.7 billion in 2009 to $73 billion in 2019. The industry is expected to surpass $83 billion by 2023, driven by technological advances and wider access to media devices.
- Private investors are placing their bets on sports startups, albeit with smaller amounts than other tech-influenced spaces. In 2019, 224 companies raised just $1.28 billion, a 67% plunge from 2018, according to PitchBook data.