Dugout to acquire ballball, form strategic alliance with News Corp

LONDON: Dugout and News Corp have revealed plans for the acquisition by the digital football business enterprise of News Corp’s mobile and online platform ballball, which delivers near-live highlights of the world’s leading football leagues and other content to football markets in South-East Asia.

The move highlights Dugout’s focus on expanding its global presence and providing football fans around the world with access to the best content from the biggest football clubs and players in the world.

Dugout represents the first time the world’s biggest clubs have joined forces to create a business – with partners including AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Bayern Munich, Juventus, Liverpool FC, Manchester City FC, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid CF, Inter Milan, Roma, Napoli, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid and more.

ballball.com was launched by News Corp in August 2013 and is now one of the leading football video platforms in South-East Asia. The platform distributes short-form highlights from European and other top football leagues to the region - generating 800 million video views during the 2017-18 football season.

The agreement to acquire ballball will see Dugout showcase the mobile and online platform’s unique aggregation of football content in two key territories - Vietnam and Indonesia - through a ballball section on the Dugout platform, with plans to expand into other countries in the region. From today, the best of Dugout’s content will also be showcased on ballball.com.

The acquisition will lead to the creation of a new Dugout entity – Dugout SE Asia – which will be headquartered in Singapore and will lead the expansion of Dugout in the region.

While parent company Dugout will be the majority shareholder of Dugout SE Asia, News Corp will also have a stake in the new business. This strategic partnership will include News Corp's global head of rights Simon Greenberg sitting on the board of Dugout SE Asia.

Elliot Richardson, founder and chairman of Dugout, said: “We are delighted to have agreed the purchase of ballball, which has been hugely successful in bringing great football content from the world’s best leagues to fans in South-East Asia. We’re now looking forward to complementing that platform with Dugout’s unique ingredient: embedded partnerships and access to the best players and clubs in the world.”

“Our aim with Dugout was to make it the digital football destination of choice by aligning clubs/players with brands and fans. We have already created over 15,000 hours of exclusive video content with our partners, and with access to incredible archive and new content themes, this will unlock more stories for fans to view of the clubs and players they love. The purchase of ballball will show the continued momentum behind the business and the chance to work with News Corp as a partner is so exciting. We know that South-East Asia is a hugely important territory for football clubs and the brands we work with, so we look forward to giving football fans in the region a great experience.”

Greenberg said: “We are very excited that News Corp is forging this new partnership with Dugout, a unique business that brings with it incredible connections across the world of football. In today’s rapidly changing media environment, it’s essential to work with strong and innovative partners like Dugout that recognize the value of premium content.”

“With football the fastest growing sport in the world - and Asia the fastest growing region - we launched ballball on mobile, the fastest growing platform, in 2013 and we are very proud of all that's been achieved since. The team has built an unparalleled digital expertise and reputation to make it the go-to mobile destination for football highlights in the region. Dugout recognizes the value of that work and together we can use this foundation to create a very compelling mobile offering for the many millions of football fans in SE Asia.”

All 77 clubs (and a growing number of players) on Dugout have a dedicated profile to upload content and interact with fans, meaning that Dugout users get a totally personalized experience based on the clubs and players they follow. The business launched in late 2016 and has already gathered over 67 million unique users and 912 million video views to date. Dugout has a social footprint of 2.1 billion and over 12,500 videos have been posted on the platform by clubs, players and brands.

Dugout has recently announced a number of other strategic partnerships to support the business’ objective of expanding its global presence. For example, in December Dugout launched a partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) – boosting the brand’s global profile and tapping into the growing popularity of football in North America.

This approach reflects Dugout’s core belief in “localization of content” – giving partners and brands detailed analytics that enable them to better understand audience behavior and tastes in specific markets, in order to boost fan engagement.

The company has also signed deals with innovative tech companies like VEWD, SPOTX, Rakuten/Viber and Amazon to reach more users and provide brands advertising on the platform with better engagement, cutting-edge user consumer targeting and detailed analytics.