A new way to watch and interact with sporting events is coming this NFL season from WinView Games, which will try a model of sports fan engagement that doesn’t require money, and is not daily fantasy sports.
Led by CEO David Lockton, an entrepreneur and pioneer in interactive TV, Winview hopes it has the next big thing in sports.
So far, Winview has raised more than $3 million with the idea that it can unlock the secret of promoting in-game wagering in the United States. While that market has not yet taken off in America, it’s an industry worth billions in Europe.
Sports betting, but without the betting (yet)
What exactly is WinView? It calls itself a “social in-play betting sports app.” Parsing that language out, here is what Winview is attempting do, when its planned soft launch happens in the middle of August.
- Betting: It is sports betting — but based on a free-play model (i.e. no actual wagers are taken).
- In-play: It is based on in-game “wagering.” As you watch a game, Winview will create a series of propositions that users will respond to. The app is synchronized to live televised games.
- Social: It’s a way to test your sports knowledge against other fans, with easy ways to challenge and interact with friends and family.
When it goes live, it will be just for NFL games, with plans down the road to offer other sports. WinView puts it like this in its press materials:
WinView Games will bring together the entertainment of watching live televised sports along with the skills and the camaraderie of fantasy sports leagues, coupled by the shared moment-to-moment experience of real time predictions, standings and updates.
Lockton is an entrepreneur who has been involved in a variety of enterprises and has spearheaded two companies — Interactive Network and AirPlay — that synchronized televised content with real-time games that users could play.
He has actually already done something similar to what WinView is doing, via IN — players paid a subscription fee to play games for cash prizes while watching sporting events, according to Lockton.
Basically, WinView is attempting to build on the success traditional DFS has experienced, but will add active engagement during games, instead of the passive engagement of following the results of a daily fantasy contest.
How Winview will work
Users will encounter propositions before and during the real-life sporting events while in the WinView app. Players will say which side of a prop they want to side with; for example “Will x player run for 100 yards in the game?”
Once the game actually starts, a live producer for WinView will be creating props for users to respond to (i.e. “Will x team score a touchdown on this drive?”).
Users will receive points for correctly responding to the props. They can play against other users who are also using the Winview app, or in smaller contests against friends and family.
Lockton said the game won’t take up so much of the users’ attention that it will usurp the actual game being watched.
“From doing this for 20 years [via Interactive Network] with paying customers, we’ve learned you can’t distract from the enjoyment of the underlying television program,” Lockton said. “But we’ve still designed a game to have a sufficient number of propositions in a contest, so skill can rise to the top.”
A bridge for season-long fantasy players?
One of the magic bullets that the DFS industry has tried to find is how to convert season-long players to its games. Lockton believes his company may have stumbled onto one possible secret via WinView’s in-game contests, because it has a social aspect that is missing in a lot of DFS applications.
“This has huge potential,” Lockton said in a recent interview with Legal Sports Report. “When we alpha-tested this with daily fantasy league players, it got out of hand when it got in the hands of kids and relatives who were in seasonlong fantasy and they wanted to invite all their friends. All of the sudden we had a lot of players.
“We got a lot of great feedback, we got 200 fantasy players together, and I’ve never seen anything like it, and I have been doing this type of market research or a long time. One hundred percent, without exception, said that they would play this game with games they were going to watch anyway, but they would also invite their fantasy league for a separate contest against one another.”
Lockton said WinView’s app will be capable of linking a seasonlong fantasy league into its platform, allowing users to compete against each other and communicate via the app.
For now, a ‘freemium’ model, later a real-money game
Winview will be offering prizes and cash rewards for its contests using a “freemium” business model. WinView is in the process of securing sponsors who will pay for in-app advertising and videos (the latter of which will be delivered to users while the game being watched is also on a commercial break)
Even though cash and prizes are up for grabs, because Winview right now takes no “consideration” — i.e. you don’t have to pay to play — it’s considered legal in most U.S. jurisdictions.
Lockton is starting WinView as a free game as a precursor to a game potentially played for money. Obviously, that brings up questions of legality — while things falling under “fantasy sports” are often considered legal, things that fall under “sports betting” almost universally aren’t.
Lockton insists WinView’s offering will fall in the “skill game” realm that is allowed in many jurisdictions.
“The way we’re staging it, we want to have a significant database at our disposal to show that the players of the free game are showing all of the necessary proofs of a game of skill in the states we end up going into,” Lockton said.
Does WinView have a winning formula? We’re likely to start finding out once NFL season begins.