With 4.5 Million Active Fans, The Football App Wants To Be “Football’s Facebook” | applications

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Football fans are well taken care of when it comes to following the sport on our smartphones.

Thinking only of the English Premier League, we can watch live matches in the Sky and BT apps, watch the highlights on the BBC’s iPlayer or Sun + Goals, dive into the Opta data from the Stats Zone app from FourFourTwo and get news, in-game commentary and goal alerts from a host of news apps (including The Guardian’s).

One of the most popular soccer apps, however, doesn’t come from an established media brand. German startup Motain launched The Football App in 2008, and it has since been rolled out to iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Samsung smart TVs.

The app has been downloaded over 10 million times, but founder Lucas von Cranach says it’s not the best measure of its performance. “Everyone talks about downloads, but downloads aren’t a currency if people aren’t using your app,” he says.

“We have almost 5 million monthly active users, and they are very engaged, with up to 1.5 million daily active users. People spend about 1.5 to 2 hours per month on average in application and generate 200-250 page impressions each per month. “

So far, The Football App has focused on news, scores and commentary, stats and other content from various media partners – Opta, Associated Press and local news agencies included – spanning over 100 leagues at worldwide.

That is changing today, with a new feature called Fan Zone that aims to get fans to chat a lot more around all of this content. It is initially launched for the top leagues in England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France, creating a social buzz around teams and individual matches.

“Say I’m a fan after the next Swansea vs Arsenal game. If I go to the Fan Zone for this game, I’ll see some content from outside sources: people who are known to be big Arsenal or Swansea fans, blogs from interesting fans and other experts, ”says CTO Jonathan Lavigne.

“But there will also be the ability to chat with other users about this organized external content, chat and comment, and then it can come back to Twitter from within the app. We look at it first from a mobile perspective: It’s not about people writing 200-500 line blog posts. It’s more about small interactions. “

Each user will also get their own profile in The Football App. There are other startups that are trying this sort of thing: Fanatix from the UK and Vubooo from Israel. But perhaps the closest parallel to what The Football App is trying to do is Zeebox, which has a bigger schedule – all TV rather than just football – but a similar mix of organized tweets and social interaction.

von Cranach aims higher, however. “Football is huge. There are around 350 million people who consume football globally through mobile devices, and this is the market we are targeting,” he says. “We believe we can become the Facebook of football, and we are on the right track to make it happen.”

The company hopes people will use its app more throughout the week because of the new features. For example, the Fan Zone for each match will open three days before the match and run for 3-4 days after, taking into account pre-match and post-match debates, rather than just chatting during the match. .

Football app update launches on iOS first, with Android and other platforms to follow

von Cranach says Motain has been “almost cash-positive” in recent years, but the company raised € 10million (£ 8.3million) in April 2013 as part of a round funding led by Earlybird Venture Capital to fuel its ambitions, including the expansion of its team to support new social features.

The Football app has so far made money through advertising and marketing partnerships, including creating an app for Euro 2012 for Carlsberg which von Cranach said was “the most successful brand app all time”.

He sticks to the familiar social startup refrain of seeking reach before income – “We make substantial income, but if you don’t have the reach and a successful product, you will never get a great business. which generates excellent income “- but alludes to mobile advertising plans that go beyond banners.

“If you think about the way Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare…

“The advertising going above the content is bogus, so that’s not the direction we’re heading in. We’re lucky that in this vertical, football, there are a lot of premium brands that want to be. engage with football fans. “

But what about the competition? Less Fanatix, Vubooo, and Zeebox (although that too) but more of broadcasters, newspapers and big sports portals adding more social features to their own mobile apps? They will surely be looking for big chunks of that ad revenue as well.

von Cranach is bullish. “When a business comes out of print or distribution and then goes web and mobile, it loses the appeal it really focused on,” he says.

“If you take the big companies, the rights holders, their only goal is to have a return on investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in those rights. The experience, the user interface, the engagement… it doesn’t is not their first priority. “

In other words, Motain believes that Sky’s main focus is on getting people to watch the games that they have paid so much for the broadcast rights, and that will govern their strategy for the second screen and the features. social to keep fans engaged throughout the week.

I’m not so sure: it makes sense for any media company involved in football to have the ambition to become the digital water fountain for the fans. It wouldn’t surprise me if Motain’s ultimate ambition is for one of them to do it by purchasing The Football App.

“Competitors learn and build better products. Our advantage is that there are 45 of us sitting in Berlin doing one thing, and we know that mobile is not the same as the web, ”says von Cranach.

“We have that advantage, but we don’t know how long it will last. In 2-3 years, rights holders will better understand this segment. Until then, we are in the best position to dominate the market.


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