Comcast NBCUniversal believes its can access startup innovation while supporting future Olympic gold-medalists.
The American mass media company launched its new SportsTech accelerator today, based in part, on that impetus.
TechCrunch attended a briefing with Comcast execs at 30 Rock NYC to learn more about the initiative.
The SportsTech accelerator is a partnership across Comcast NBCUniversalâs sports media brands: NBC Sports, Sky Sports and the Golf Channel.
Accepted ventures will gain $50,000 in equity-based funding and enter SportsTechâs three-month accelerator boot camp â with sports industry support and mentorship â to kick off at Comcastâs Atlanta offices August 2020.
Boomtown Accelerators will join Comcast in managing the SportsTech program, with both sharing a minimum of 6% equity in selected startups.
Industry partners, such as NASCAR and U.S. Ski & Snowboard, will play an advisory role in startup selection, but wonât add capital.
An overarching objective for SportsTech emerged during conversations with execs and Jenna Kurath, Comcastâs VP for Startup Partner Development, who will run the new accelerator.
Comcast and partners aim to access innovation that could advance the business and competitive aspects of each organization.
From McDonaldâs McD Tech Labs to Mastercardâs Start Path, corporate incubators and accelerators have become common in large cap America, where companies look to tap startup ingenuity and deal-flow to adapt and hedge disruption.
Toward its own goals, SportsTech has designated several preferred startup categories. They include Business of Sports, Team and Coach Success and Athlete and Player Performance.
SportsTech partners, such as NASCAR, hope to access innovation to drive greater audience engagement. The motorsport series (and its advertising-base) has become more device-distributed, and NASCAR streams more race-day data live, from the pits to the driverâs seat.
âThe focus has grown into what are we going to do to introduce more technology in the competition side of the sportâŠthe fan experience side and how we operate as a business,â said NASCAR Chief Innovation Officer Craig Neeb.
âWeâre confident weâre going to get access to some incredibly strong and innovative companies,â he said of NASCARâs SportsTech participation.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard â the nonprofit that manages Americaâs snowsport competition teamsÂ â has an eye on performance and medical tech for its athletes.
âWearable technology [to measure performance]âŠis an area of interestâŠand things like computer vision and artificial intelligence for us to better understand technical elements, are quite interesting,â said Troy Taylor, U.S. Ski & Snowboardâs Director of High Performance.
Some of that technology could boost prospects of U.S. athletes, such as alpine skiers Tommy Ford and Mikaela Shiffrin, at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
In a $7.75 billion deal inked in 2014,Â Comcast NBCUniversal purchased the U.S. broadcast rights for Olympic competition âÂ summer and winter âÂ through 2032.
âWe asked ourselves, âcould we do more?â The notion of an innovation engine that runs before, during and after the Olympics. Could that give our Team USA a competitive edge in their pursuit for gold?,â said Jenna Kurath.
The answer came up in the affirmative and led to the formation of Comcastâs SportsTech accelerator.
Beyond supporting Olympic achievement, there is a strategic business motivation for Comcast and its new organization.
âThe early insights we gain from these companies could lead to other commercial relationships, whether thatâs licensing or even acquisition,â Will McIntosh, EVP for NBC Sports Digital and Consumer Business, told TechCrunch.
SportsTech is Comcastâs third accelerator, and the organization has a VC fund, San Francisco-based Comcast Ventures â which has invested in the likes of Lyft, Vimeo and Slack and racked up 67 exits, per Crunchbase data.
After completing the SportsTech accelerator, cohort startups could receive series-level investment or purchase offers from Comcast, its venture arm or industry partners, such as NASCAR.
âOur natural discipline right now isâŠto have early deliverables. But overtime, with our existing partners, weâll have conversations about who else could be a logical value-add to bring into this ecosystem,â said Bill Connors, Comcast Central Division President.