SAN FRANCISCO — A startup that lets users bet free on real-time sports has secured a new round of financing — and gained some high-level backers.
WinView, which lets users compete in games that run at the same time as sports games, said Tuesday that it had raised $3.4 million. The new investments bring WinView’s fund-raising to date to $6.5 million.
The startup also said it had named the two investors who led the round, Tom Rogers and Hank Ratner, as its cochairmen. They bring experience in the media industry to the company: Rogers is chairman of TiVo and the former head of NBC’s cable division; Ratner is vice chairman of Cablevision and the former chief of Madison Square Garden Co.
What drew both men to the eight-year-old WinView, they said, was its potential to serve as a new platform for advertising tied to live sports, drawing on the sort of “second-screen” phenomenon that is part of Twitter’s appeal.
The basic idea of WinView is relatively simple: Users challenge each other on various aspects of a live game using the company’s smartphone app, ranging from a father taking on his daughter during a quarter of an NFL game to a group of friends setting up a league tournament.
It is a system that the two men said has already taken hold in Europe, where such synchronized competitions have overtaken daily fantasy sports in popularity.
Underpinning the company are what Rogers and Ratner said were 26 key patents that cover running an online competition at the same time as a game. Yet the business of running games tied to live sports raises the specter of daily fantasy sports businesses like Boston-based DraftKings and FanDuel, of New York, which have faced questions about whether they constitute online gambling.
Rogers and Ratner were quick to dismiss any comparisons, noting that WinView for now was free to play and would — at least initially — draw its revenue from advertising. (They conceded that in Europe, WinView’s counterpart operates largely as a pay-to-play system.)
And they added that the various competitions that could run on WinView require far less of the sometimes arcane details and knowledge that populate daily fantasy sites.
“This is free to play,” Ratner said. “This is a far broader audience than a fantasy sports audience. This is for anyone who wants to play.”
WinView said that it would open for business in the United States this fall, coinciding with the start of the professional football season.
Both men said that they viewed the service as a way to tap into audiences that have grown to shun commercials — something Rogers said he has long observed during his tenure at TiVo.
“Advertisers are having a hard time reaching millennials,” Rogers said. “This has created what we think is a huge advertising opportunity.”
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