Startup of the week / Bringing the stadium to the couch
Vubooo exploits the second screen trend, allowing fans to make comments to each other as they watch soccer matches.
A new report from Nielson offers data about the hottest new trend, called Second Screen, which means using one's cellphone or smartphone while watching television. “The Nielson report of connected device owners in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Italy” reveals: “In the U.S., 88 percent of tablet owners and 86 percent of smartphone owners said they used their device while watching TV at least once during a 30-day period." Moreover, according to the ratings company, 50 percent of viewers use the device in a context relevant to what is happening on the screen, such as sporting events.
Jumping into the fray is Israeli startup Vubooo, a second screen app for soccer fans. “It’s a bit like ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ in the world of sports,” explains Itav Topaz, the developer and CEO of the company. “We started out with an Android application for soccer matches with those two basic actions that simulate what happens in the stadium and we developed from there.”
Topaz relates a bit about the second screen world of sport: “In general, this world splits into three areas," he explains. "The first is additional information – analyses and statistical data according to what is happening in the game. The second area is gaming, like trivia questions, a tug of war between fans of the two teams and so on. The third area is social, and that is our focus. My friends and I have been doing this for years now, sending one another instant messages during a soccer match. Soccer fans start each match by opening Whatsapp and joshing each other. Vubooo is our virtual bleachers. The app makes possible a feeling like you’re in the stadium.”
Topaz says the app allows fans to share comments with each other. “The record numbers of tweets on Twitter per second come at sports events. There is a social need to share," he says. "Most of the texts are short: Goal, Damn, Wow. We have expanded this and now in the app we have nine actions, among them Bravo, Yellow card him, Red card him and Offside. In addition, from the moment something happens on the playing field, from a goal to a yellow card to a replacement, two seconds go by and you get a notification on your phone. Thus far we have half a million downloads on Android and about 65 percent of the users are active during games. This week we have launched an application for iOS. At the match on Tuesday (Bayern Munich versus Barcelona) there were 25,000 virtual fans with our application following the match devotedly. They represent three times more interactions than sports fans on Twitter because it is an experience tailored for them. We saw the peak of this when there was an offside that was disputed and reactions came from both sides.”
The app is currently for soccer only, says Topaz. "This is the most popular sport in the world, with half the world’s population as fans," he says. "At the moment we are covering the top leagues in Europe: the English, Spanish, German, French and Italian leagues and of course the Champions League. In September we will launch a version of the app with coverage of more leagues and we are already working towards the World Cup in 2014. In addition to this consideration, soccer is our love, mine and my partner Alon Har-Tal’s. We are Barcelona fans – it’s our main team. In the English league we are split – I’m with Manchester and he’s with Liverpool. Both of us are sports fans and we have been good friends for 10 years. We did computer studies together and we left jobs at big high-tech companies for this dream.”
Vubooo, a combination of the South African horn vuvuzela made famous at the 2010 World Cup and 'booo,' currently employs five people and a number of outside consultants, says Topaz. "We started working on this at the end of 2010, we registered as a company in June of 2011 and in January of 2012 we released our first product,” he says.
To date Vubooo has raised $1 million from private investors and is on the way to formulating a business model. The company plans to provide its product to channels that broadcast sports, which will provide the app to their viewers. Then the channel will be able to sell advertising packages including the first and second screens, and Vubooo will split the revenue with the broadcaster. In addition, the company is in touch with an English soccer team that wants a tailor-made version of the app for its fans, says Topaz.
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