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Vancouver Canucks left wing Raffi Torres shields Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle from the puck in the third period during an NHL game in Glendale, Arizona, March 8, 2011. (RICK SCUTERI/REUTERS)
Vancouver Canucks left wing Raffi Torres shields Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle from the puck in the third period during an NHL game in Glendale, Arizona, March 8, 2011. (RICK SCUTERI/REUTERS)

Ontario company's fantasy game adds dimension to live sports Add to ...

A little company based in Guelph, Ont., wants to introduce you to the three-screen universe, if you're not living there already.

Every Saturday, fans watching "Hockey Night in Canada" on CBC-TV can take part virtually in the action. Using their smart phone, iPad or computer they can play a live fantasy sports game created by InGamer Sports.

"Our proposition is all about fusing the three screens together," said InGamer CEO Nic Sulsky.

"Let's face it, the modern audience is watching television in ways they never did before. It's what the modern television viewer wants."

The free interactive game adds another dimension to the viewing experience for fans - along with the chance to win prizes. The idea also has drawn interest from other broadcasters, increasingly weary of losing live audiences to PVRs and the bevy of distractions available to consumers.

"Live content is going to be the only thing people are going to need to watch in real-time in the future," said Sulsky.

"Because the modern audience has their phones and has their computers with them, it's essential for broadcasters to start accepting and capitalizing on the fact that the three-screen model (using TVs, computers and mobile devices interchangeably) is the future."

Getting connected to one of the most popular sporting events in the country was a big coup for InGamer, but the start-up company is hoping that's just the beginning and is looking to go global this year.

"The goal is to be attached to every sport, in every country on Earth," said Sulsky.

While fantasy sports games are massively popular, with estimates suggesting there are tens of millions of players worldwide, InGamer's version doesn't require a season-long commitment and fans can join in at any time.

"The hardcore conventional fantasy sports games have really plateaued for a lot of different reasons: the time it takes to jump in, and the time it takes to manage a team," Sulsky said.

"Ours is on a game-by-game basis where any game, any day you can join up on your phone, or computer, or iPad, pick a number of players and go. If you lower the barriers of entry where people can play casually against anyone, any time, anywhere the engagement levels are quite high."

Players pick a roster of players and are awarded points for offensive and defensive accomplishments. At the end of each period or quarter, substitutions can be made.

"We've turned the user into the head coach," Sulsky said.

As an incentive to get involved, prizes are handed out to the top players. The "Hockey Night in Canada" game, which is sponsored by Crown Royal and is called Star Selector, is giving out a home theatre package and vacations to see games in any NHL city or in Europe. Sulsky said about 13,000 players have registered to play along so far.

This summer, Sulsky said InGamer will be connected with CFL games and the company is hoping to move into the U.S. in time for the playoffs in the NHL and NBA.

InGamer also sought out a partnership with the influential New York-based sports firm IMG in its bid to expand around the world. The company is looking to make a splash with the Rugby World Cup, which doesn't necessarily register with a lot of North American sports fans but is a very big deal overseas.

"It's the fourth biggest sporting event in the world, with 20-plus countries involved," Sulsky said.

"(Then) there'll absolutely be an Olympics game (in 2012), there's the soccer Euro Cup next year, we'll have golf, we'll have NASCAR, we'll have cricket, NCAA sports in the U.S., which is also quite a big market. ... We're built sport agnostic."

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