Fanatics’ first live shopping event will feature collectors opening packs of baseball cards to exchange on the field during this week’s events at the Seattle Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
The new business division of the sports platform, which is called Fanatics Live, is centered around live shopping, during which users will be able to buy trading cards and other collectibles in the Fanatics Live app while watching streams from hosts and other collectible sellers .
Earlier this year, Fanatics hired Nick Bell, who previously led teams responsible for the Google Search experience and was Snap’s global head of content and partnerships, to serve as CEO of Fanatics Live.
Fanatics will open its new platform for a beta test coinciding with the MLB All-Star Game to a small group of users, Bell said, and the company is working with several trading card “breakers” to host live streams directly from T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
While this first effort will focus on “smashing” — the social trading card-buying system where participants buy pre-matched seats in unopened packs or boxes of cards that the seller then opens live — Bell said it’s just a sampling of what Fanatics plans to do in the live shopping space once the platform fully launches later this month.
“It is our intention for Fanatics Live to be the leader in the live trading space,” Bell said. “We know that live trading in the US is still in its infancy, but there is a great opportunity for growth that we expect to happen over the next few months and years; we hope to stimulate all of that.”
Live shopping, which started in China and across Asia, has grown into a $512 billion market, according to Coresight Research. This growing popularity has pushed e-commerce platforms like Amazon, eBay and Poshmark into the space, as well as tech platforms like Facebook and Meta’s Instagram and TikTok.
But the trend, with a salesperson broadcasting a live video showing and explaining the products he’s selling to viewers who can also ask questions — effectively a new version of QVC, or the Home Shopping Network — is slowly gaining traction in the U.S. Earlier this year Meta has stopped support for live shopping on Instagram, instead focusing on other forms of selling on the platform.
Bell acknowledged the challenges facing live shopping in the U.S., but said he sees them as an opportunity. He cites data showing that 74% of Chinese consumers have purchased a product while watching a live broadcast, while 78% of US consumers say they have never watched a live shopping experience. However, among those US consumers who did, the vast majority purchased at least one item.
Fanatics is betting that its new live shopping platform will not only appeal to a niche but ardent group of trading card fans and other sports fans, but also to a wider audience of consumers who have yet to be exposed to this kind of flows. Fanatics works with various leagues, brands, creators, athletes and personalities, some far beyond sports, for potential opportunities on the platform.
Chris Lamontagne, who joined Fanatics Live as senior vice president of the platform earlier this year after serving as CEO of social commerce platform Spring, said there is an untapped “intersection between this idea of content, community and commerce “.
“What we’ve really tried to focus on is how to build a platform that supports those three components — really simple and gamified commerce, but really at the heart of it all is the sense of community and the feeling that you can buy something just here,” he said.
Fanatics Live has hired Scott Rogowski, the former host of the viral sensation HQ Trivia, as an official host on the platform and is looking to hire additional hosts as well as other content creators in the collectibles space to help create community gathering spaces where products are also sold. The app created by Fanatics for the live product includes various tools for sellers to make their streams engaging and interactive.
Live Merchandise is Fanatics’ latest effort in its continued evolution beyond the sporting goods e-commerce company started by Michael Rubin in 2011. Now with apparel rights to nearly every sports property and a database of more than 94 million fans , the company is also pushing into the sports betting space, with an offer to buy PointsBet’s US assets.
An IPO could be on the horizon for the three-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company, which was valued at $31 billion in December 2022. While other areas of its business are mature — the company expects roughly $8 billion in sales in 2023, excluding trading card rights – Bell said 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 the year, we expect an extreme pace of innovation.”