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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Buzzer, a mobile platform that wants to reinvent how fans consume live sports, has signed deals with three sports leagues — the NBA, NHL and PGA Tour — in the last several weeks.

  • In addition, the startup has hired Shirin Malkani, the former senior VP of global media distribution for the NBA, as its chief commercial officer.
  • Malkani, who helped broker the NBA's TV deals with ESPN and Turner, is an important hire for Buzzer as it navigates the complex world of live sports rights.

How it works: Buzzer's vision is to aggregate sports rights and send fans personalized notifications to make it easy to pop into live games — either through their existing subscription or via micropayments.

  • Subscription: Fans will be able to authenticate their various subscriptions (cable, YouTubeTV, ESPN+, etc.) through Buzzer.
  • Micropayments: If fans don't have the subscription required, they can quickly make a micropayment. The NBA deal, for example, offers 10 minutes of game action for 99 cents or a quarter for $1.99.
Courtesy: Buzzer

The big picture: The live sports landscape has grown increasingly fragmented in recent years with endless apps to download and passwords to remember. As a result, curation and discovery have become key challenges for leagues and networks.

  • "Discovery's very difficult," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in 2019. "We're on all kinds of different networks depending on where you are. That's something where technology will help."
  • Silver was essentially describing Buzzer, which has built a notifications-based layer on top of the current ecosystem that helps fans more easily access live action.
  • Once a fan downloads Buzzer and adds their team and player preferences, they'll get push notifications about key moments they can watch (i.e. Steph Curry is heating up!). And unlike networks, which only want to drive viewers to their own games, Buzzer is neutral.

The last word, via Buzzer founder Bo Han: "There have already been four no-hitters in baseball this season. Why are we not maximizing audience for that, even if it's behind a paywall? Because that's the most marketable, lightning in a bottle moment."

  • "When fans hear that exciting moments are happening in sports, it's not like they're going to instantly subscribe to a $6/month service. But if we lower the barrier of entry to 99 cents, then maybe they're able to maximize that moment."
  • "So we feel that Buzzer can bring Gen Z fans back to live sports, while also being a great lead-gen tool for SVODs [subscription video on-demand services] like ESPN+, Peacock, Paramount+ and so forth."

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

NTSB probes crash that killed 10 in Alabama as storm lashes Southeast

Flash-flooding in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's investigating a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash in Alabama that killed 10 people, including nine children, as storms swept the Southeast.

The big picture: Saturday's crash on Interstate 65, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes" over the weekend, per AP.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has announced that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.

American Airlines cuts hundreds of flights amid demand surge

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

American Airlines announced Sunday that it's cutting some 950 flights from its schedule, including 296 this weekend, to reduce potential pressure on its operations, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Driving the news: The U.S. vaccine rollout has led to a massive increase in travel bookings. The airline noted in an emailed statement that it's facing an "incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand."

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