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Premier League signs up to Comcast NBCUniversal’s sports tech startup accelerator

English soccer top flight looks to major broadcast partner to enhance digital strategy.

28 June 2023 Steve McCaskill

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  • Startup accelerator launched in 2021
  • Premier League will be active partner from 2024
  • Accelerator’s existing partners include Sky Sports, WWE and PGA Tour

The Premier League is joining the Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator, providing resources and opportunities to early-stage sports technology startups that could benefit English soccer’s top flight in the future.

The league, which has broadcast agreements with Comcast in the UK and the US through Sky Sports and NBC Sports, will join the programme for the fourth cohort, for which applications are currently open ahead of a launch in February 2024.

Existing partners include Nascar, WWE, the PGA Tour, US Ski & Snowboard, USA Swimming, and USA Cycling. Since the accelerator launched in 2021, participants have participated in more than 103 pilots, partnerships and commercial deals with consortium partners.

Comcast says the Premier League’s decision to join the programme demonstrates its track record in helping sports tech startups develop their innovations, find new sources of funding, and identify potential commercial partners.

The media giant says the Premier League is another blue-chip addition to the initiative and reflects the fact that a growing proportion of participating companies are located outside the US. The involvement of the Premier League’s senior domestic broadcaster and its most important rights owner outside the UK is also significant.

“Through our first three cohorts, we noticed that more than one-third of startup teams applying are international and often looking to break into the US market to further accelerate their business success,” said Jenna Kurath, vice president of startup partnerships, head of Comcast NBCU SportsTech.

“The Premier League, with its expansive footprint, global fanbase, and incredible leadership will be a wonderful asset to our startups and their experience in the programme. We’re excited to work alongside the Premier League team and startup founders to test and experiment with emerging technologies that will bring fans closer to the sports moments that matter.”

“We are delighted to be adding to our longstanding relationship with Comcast and NBC by joining the Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech Accelerator,” added Paul Molnar, chief media officer at the Premier League.

“We look forward to working with the Comcast NBCU team, Boomtown and the other sports partners to help discover new and emerging technologies which can play a meaningful role in the ever-changing sports industry, while supporting the startup founders in their evolution and development.”

Comcast’s class of 2023 includes startups from five countries and covers various segments of sports technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), fan engagement, media, and in-stadium.

SportsPro says…

The Premier League’s status as the world’s most popular domestic soccer league means it has the luxury of being a ‘fast follower’ when it comes to technology.

While Spain’s LaLiga and the Bundesliga in Germany have devoted significant resources towards technical innovation and establishing dedicated units, the Premier League has had little desire to experiment, adopt streaming platforms, or even make significant updates to its hugely popular fantasy soccer game. 

That’s not to say the league doesn’t recognise the importance of technology and social media to grow its brand around the world. Indeed, the recent partnership with Sorare and the appointment of Alexandra Willis as director of digital media and audience development to build out the top flight’s direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategy reflect that.

Having sat on the sidelines for three rounds of Comcast’s accelerator programme, the Premier League is ready to engage with a ready-made opportunity to expand its digital presence and maintain its position at the top of the tree.

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