June 30, 2021 | Kim Bhasin, Bloomberg
Buzzer, a live-sports streaming service, has raised $20 million in funding from venture capital firms and a group of current and former franchise owners and athletes, including Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky.
Sapphire Sport and Canaan Partners led the round, which is set to be announced Wednesday. More than 20 athletes from across sports were also involved, including tennis phenom Naomi Osaka, football’s Patrick Mahomes and DeAndre Hopkins, and basketball stars Devin Booker, LaMelo Ball and Sabrina Ionescu.
They were joined by several team owners, such as Joe Lacob from the Golden State Warriors, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jeffrey Vinik, and Lerner Enterprises, the family firm behind the Washington Nationals.
Buzzer’s app essentially aggregates streaming rights so users can set up customized multisport alerts, get notifications and tune in to live game action for a fee starting at 99 cents for 10 minutes. Sports leagues are trying to figure out better ways to reach younger viewers who are increasingly watching sports through highlights on their phones, rather than sitting through entire games on live television.
The investment brings Buzzer’s total funding to about $24 million since the business was founded in January 2020.
Executives plan to use the funds to hire more staff across the country, especially in product and engineering, with a focus on data science. They want to improve the app’s notification system, which uses personalized algorithms and machine learning. Alerts can feel intrusive if they’re not relevant to users, so it’s vital to get that right.
Buzzer, which became available to select users in January, remains in early-access mode as it tests products. The company plans to open the service to all in the fourth quarter.
Buzzer is also trying to sign on more partners, after successfully negotiating deals in its early days with the NBA, the NHL and golf’s PGA Tour.
“We intend to expand these partnerships,” Bo Han, Buzzer’s founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview. “These moments are the most marketable moments in a game.”
Deals aren’t limited to just leagues, said Han, who was previously the director of live content at Twitter Inc. He’s also talking to national television networks, regional sports networks, over-the-top platforms and multichannel video-programming distributors.
His plan is to boost underserved sports as well, including women’s leagues like basketball’s WNBA and soccer’s NWSL, which often don’t get ideal time slots or distribution.