Canadian Startup PlayRank Launches Mobile Second Screen App for iPhone

PlayRank has launched its mobile second screen basketball app for iPhone and the Vancouver-based startup wants fans to “have their say on every play.”

PlayRank is one among a growing trend of passion-specific apps that seek to provide a focused social network solution to distracting Facebook and Twitter feeds. It’s an application that lets fans rate and discuss athletes as the game unfolds. Fans get a platform for quantifying their expertise and the crowd-sourced player metrics give them an edge in their fantasy league or pool.

Founder Adrian Crook said that the second screen trend is growing at a substantial rate—estimated to be at $490 million in 2012—but few apps are focused around a specific activity. Virtually none exist that use fan-powered player performance metrics.

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“Essentially what we’re trying to do is augment this discussion that’s always among sports fans of whose underrated and whose overrated, quantify it and make it as simple as possible for people to share their opinion,” Crook told Techvibes.

The “Twitter for sports…on steroids,” as PlayRank describes itself, answers the sports fan’s need to be constantly engaged. Fantasy sports occupy the typical sports nut before and after an event while an app like PlayRank can be the answer during. It uses a structure that encourages, measures and rewards fans for sharing their opinion. Following every play there can be micro discussions where users comment and rate players and fellow users which generate several crowdsourced player performance and popularity metrics.

Crook possesses over 18 years experience in the gaming industry having run his own consultancy, Adrian Crook and Associates for the majority of that time. The interactive producer and social gaming expert had the idea in his head for some time but only saw it validated last year during the NHL playoffs. At the time the Vancouver Province was running a popular section allowing readers to rate individual players’ performance after every game. There must be a market for it, thought Crook.

After bouncing the idea off of design associate Kevin Oke and bringing on iOS and console programmer Karl Schmidt, the trio got to work and released the basketball version on January 19. Now they’ve got hockey, baseball, soccer and football in their eyesight.

Building brand awareness and attracting users is something Robert Matuk says will be a challenge. The online gaming consultant at North American iGaming Group tested the product for Crook. He says getting people to warm up to something completely new won’t be easy or cheap. But Crook isn’t exactly a novice when it comes to mobile engagement.

“The product looks amazing, it’s very usable and it’s quite nice to play around with,” said Matuk. “If you compare it to some of the mobile apps for sports betting or for fantasy sports, this thing just wins hands down in terms of usability, look and feel.”

Matuk thinks incorporating a fan versus fan element could be a viable next step. Allow fans to engage in lively debate against each other and even add a “dislike” button.

Having built previous partnerships with broadcasters like Sky Sports, PlayRank will be targeting other major players like CBC and ESPN in an attempt to drive traffic. Other revenue streams can come from pro subscriptions for users, in-feed ads or sponsored “player of the game” posts.

As for the immediate future though, the team is confident they can roll out another sport and satisfy their users. “We can support virtually anything with very little effort and we can turn out an app specific to that sport because we’ve built a vertical social network that we can just plug data feeds into,” said Crook. “Its quite a scalable system.”