Fanatics’ first live shopping event will see collectors open baseball trading card packs on the field during this week’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Seattle.

The sports platform’s new business unit, called Fanatics Live, centers on a live shopping experience where users can buy trading cards and other collectibles on the Fanatics Live app while watching live streams from hosts and other collectible sellers.

Earlier this year, Fanatics hired Nick Bell, who previously led the team responsible for Google’s search experience and served as Snap’s global head of content and partnerships, as CEO of Fanatics Live.

Bell said Fanatics will open up its new platform to a small group of consumers for beta testing during the MLB All-Star Game, and the company is working with several trading card “crackers” to stream live directly from T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

While this first effort will focus on “breaking” the social trading card buying system in which participants pre-purchase unopened card packs or coincident points in card boxes that are then opened by sellers on the spot – Bell said it’s just Fanatics A sample of plans. Transactions will be available in the live shopping space once the platform is fully launched later this month.

“Our intent is for Fanatics Live to be the leader in live commerce,” Bell said. “We know the livestreaming business in the U.S. is still in its infancy, but we see a huge opportunity for growth in the months and years ahead; we want to drive it all.”

Live shopping started in China and across Asia and has grown into a $512 billion market, according to Coresight Research. E-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Poshmark, as well as tech platforms such as Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, have also entered the space following the growing popularity.

But the trend, in which sellers show and explain what they’re selling to viewers via live-streamed video, and viewers can ask questions — effectively a new-age version of QVC or the Home Shopping Network — has always had traction in this space. very slowly. Earlier this year, Meta shut down support for live shopping on Instagram, turning instead to other forms of selling on the platform.

Bell acknowledged the challenges of live shopping in the U.S., but said he sees it as an opportunity. He cited data showing that 74% of Chinese consumers have purchased products while watching a live broadcast, while 78% of American consumers said they have never watched a live broadcast shopping experience. However, the vast majority of U.S. consumers who made a purchase purchased at least one item.

Fanatics believes its new livestream shopping platform will appeal not only to a niche but avid group of trading card fans and other sports fans, but also to a broader audience of consumers who haven’t been exposed to such livestreams. Fanatics is working with various leagues, brands, creators, athletes, and celebrities, some of them well beyond the sports arena, to identify potential opportunities on the platform.

Chris Lamontagne, who joined Fanatics Live earlier this year as senior vice president of platforms after serving as CEO of social commerce platform Spring, says there is “an untapped intersection between content, community and business ideas.”

“What we really wanted to focus on was how to build a platform that supported those three components — very simple and gamified commerce, but what really underpinned it all was a sense of community and a sense that you could only buy things here, ” He said.

Fanatics Live has hired Scott Rogowski, the former host of the hit show HQ Trivia, as the platform’s official host, and is looking to hire more hosts, as well as other content creators in the collector space , to help create community gathering spaces where products are also being sold. The application developed by Fanatics for the Live product provides sellers with a variety of tools to make their live broadcasts more engaging and interactive.

Live commerce is the latest in Fanatics’ growing effort to expand beyond the sports merchandise e-commerce company Michael Rubin founded in 2011. Now, with apparel rights to nearly every sports property and a database of more than 94 million fans, the company is pushing the company to also make a big push into sports betting, with an offer to buy PointsBet’s U.S. assets.

The three-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company may be on the verge of an IPO, with a December 2022 valuation of $31 billion. While other areas of its business have matured—the company expects about $8 billion in sales (excluding trading cards) in 2023—entitlements—and Bell says its live shopping efforts are just getting started.

“It’s the first inning for us and we’re going to learn,” Bell said. “Between now and the end of this year, we expect the pace of innovation to accelerate.”

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