Turner Sports Redefines Place in Digital Realm With an App of Its Own

Until now, Turner Sports has served purely as a manager for the digital assets of others, with major partners including the NBA, PGA, and NASCAR. However, the launch of the SportsNOW mobile app gives Turner Sports its first branded consumer digital product.

The new app, which launched last week and is currently available at the iTunes App Store, provides sports fans with live scores and stats and enables them to customize the service with “alert” and “follow” features that can be assigned to their favorite teams. In addition, the app integrates a social-media–messaging feature that allows users to interact with fellow sports fans.

“We’ve obviously been involved with league Websites, digital products, and mobile for quite some time,” says Scott Doyne, senior director of business operations for Turner Sports. “This is something different, where we saw an opening for something that combined real time, mobile, and social [features]. Those are the three big hot buttons.”

SportsNOW is initially focusing on NCAA men’s college basketball, the NBA, and the NHL. However, the app will launch coverage of Major League Baseball on opening day, a FIFA World Cup section in June, and an NFL section in time for the first week of the regular season.

In addition to up-to-the-minute live scores, stats, and game recaps, SportsNOW enables users to interact via a specialized chat feature. Fans can discuss specific games using the social-media–messaging feature or easily post to their Facebook page or Twitter feed.

“We wanted to give people a kind of that trash-talk capability that gives them the feeling of being at a sports bar,” says Doyne. “Not only are you able to track what’s going on in different games at different times, but, say you hear a cheer for the Yankees game over in the corner of a bar and you’re a Mets fan, then you can hop onto our chat board and present your own feelings about it.”

One thing you will not see on SportsNOW is video. The app is a purely information- and update-based service, but Doyne does not rule out the possibility of introducing video somewhere down the road.

“We’re not ruling anything out. This is such a dynamic industry right now, and consumer feedback comes in fast,” he says. “However, we’re starting with making sure we’re doing the right thing for mobile first and foremost versus a lot of other properties that have existing TV or Web businesses and have gone about it a different way.”

Given Turner Sports’ sizable footprint in the digital world, it may seem surprising that it took the company this long to launch an app of its own. Having managed digital assets for NBA Digital, PGA.com, PGATour.com, NASCAR.com, among others, Turner brought a wealth of experience to the development of SportsNOW.

“We do have a lot of experience across the team and individual sports, going back 25 years,” says Doyne. “In terms of mobile, our PGA and NBA properties have been the most aggressive, the NBA in particular. We used a lot of the learning from that [in SportsNOW’s development]. A lot of the alerts functionality was used on the PGA Championship app for PGA.com; that got a lot of good reviews. We’ve used bits and pieces from all those apps [to build SportsNOW].”

As of now, SportsNOW is available only for Apple products, such as the iPhone and iTouch. However, Doyne says that, if the right opportunity presents itself, Turner Sports would be very willing to expand SportsNOW to other mobile devices.

“We’re just on iPhone right now, but we could possibly [be interested in other mobile devices],” he says. “We’re just not that deep into it yet. We’re looking at the space and trying to figure out what makes sense from a business standpoint. We’re also talking to fans and advertisers, so, if something makes sense for the space, we’ll be there.”

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