VICI Sports Recreates the Stadium Experience for Out-Of-Market Fans
If you are out of the country on a business or personal trip, but you’re also a fan of a sport that is not quite in that vacation spot’s market, chances are you are going to have some difficulty finding a way to watch the game.
We spoke with Adam Jones, VICI Co-Founder and CEO, to chat about his experiences as a fan of out-of-market sports (like association football), how his company’s platform works, and what plans they have for other sports.
Colin Barry [CB]: You are working in a field that most people would love to be in. What is your background with sports/sports entrepreneurship?
Adam Jones, Co-Founder and CEO of VICI Sports
Adam Jones [AJ]: Prior to starting VICI, I’ve primarily been just a fan, especially with American and European football. I have been an out-of-market sports fan for quite some time now. That first-hand experience, combined with my “way too long” consulting career and thinking about things the way a consultant does, is what started me on this journey to start a company in this space.
As a consultant, I was traveling a lot. In any given city, the fact that I couldn’t just find fans of similar sports was, to me, absurd. We all share and communicate our preferences through Facebook and social media.
This put me in the state of mind of what the average out-of-market sports fan faces. Initially, I was focused on discovering fans of the same ilk. But, even for the fans who have started meetup groups and fan clubs, there are challenges for those groups as well.
I’ve been to NFL and NBA games, and anyone will tell you that the live experience is incredible. However, that part is still fragmented with fans across the globe.
CB: Was the idea behind the company to create fan meetups for out-of-market sports fans or what it always something different?
AJ: Not necessarily creating groups. It’s more along the lines of taking the puzzle pieces like meetup groups, popular sports bars to hang out, teams that are trying to reach a global audience and brands that are looking to sponsor some of these groups but bundle them together to recreate the stadium experience at a local level. And make billions in the process.
CB: What are some of the challenges you feel that out-of-market sports fans face that VICI Sports is solving?
AJ: It’s a combination of several things. One of which is there can be a lack of community, where it’s hard to find a group. Another aspect of the stadium experience is the contests being held at stadiums or arenas, and fans are seen winning something because of where they sit and most of the fun in that does not exist out of the stadium. A third problem is the lack of personalized content. Most people watching the broadcasts are watching the same thing as everyone else and it's not like when you show up to a game early and see what’s going on in the stands before it begins.
On the other hand, teams aren’t ignorant of these issues, but they just don’t have tools flexible enough to reach out to the out-of-market fans en masse in a personalized way. In soccer, this is a common issue. A team based in Paris is going to have thousands of fans in the stadium at any given time, but they will also have millions of fans in North America and probably the same amount in China. There is an opportunity for these teams to capitalize on a global fanbase.
At the end of the day, we are trying to give our users a personal experience watching the game as they would be on the field. My sports Twitter isn’t the same as yours. Neither is my ESPN.com. So why is my Sportscenter?
CB: How does VICI work and “close the gap” so to speak?
AJ: The way our web-based platform works from a team perspective, they will take content that they are already producing (such as videos on YouTube), upload it to our cloud for them to share with fans. From there, they can choose what videos they want to show for a particular audience. They could choose to show a certain video to a bar in New York and a completely different one to a group of fans in China. It doesn’t always have to be team-created content, as we want to include sponsors onto our platform. Fans can also create their own types of content and share it with other users. All through TV, no mobile app required.
We have been focusing on keeping what was already simple, simple. Thinking about ways to make this as cost-effective and compatible with as many TVs as possible has given us an edge. But, I think our smarts are on the cloud side of things. The idea that I can simply broadcast content to certain audiences on TV as easily as I can on Youtube, Twitch, and Twitter sounds like something that can be done easily, but it isn’t, because TV has traditionally been constrained by the “dumb” cable pipe connected to it.
CB: Your company is currently focused on soccer. Are there any plans to start including other sports onto the platform?
AJ: 100%. Our first customer, Paris Saint-Germain, is a $1B soccer team who regularly competes against the best teams in Europe. They’re using VICI TV to engage and understand fans in their top 100 markets around the world, especially US and Asia.
But we’ve also announced two strategic partnerships with Monumental Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Washington Capitals and the Wizards who are leading the charge on sports wagering, and Madison Square Garden, who have been forward-thinking with ticketing technology.
Finally, all the organizations above have an eSports team. We’re watching the eSports market closely because there’s already a native behavior around interactive, personalized broadcasts on platforms like Twitch (but not on TV...yet!)
CB: The name VICI Sports is unique. How did you come up with the name?
AJ: I’m kind of a huge nerd and have always been a fan of the phrase “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” allegedly from Julius Caesar, which translated means “I came, I saw, I conquered.” We see an opportunity to completely redefine sports television, so I thought the name made sense. Time will tell!