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Sports app Fancred launches live NBA Finals show with actor Michael Rapaport

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The sports video app Fancred is on its second life, and new ownership aims to make it a viable player in the mobile-live-video land grab.

Fancred first launched in 2013, amassed 100,000 users and $4.5 million in venture funding, then shut down in 2016. After the app went dormant, Boston-based holding company Football Nation bought up the bones, including the rights to the name, for an undisclosed (likely small) amount. Now Football Nation is making its first major move as part of the app’s pivot toward being a live video social network a la Periscope.

During Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, Fancred will pilot Fancred On-Air, a live broadcast section of its app where hosts give live commentary and users can video-call the hosts from their phones to join the conversation.

The feature places traditional sports radio in a live video context. Fancred has been quietly testing the feature all year, but Thursday is its official debut.

“This is like a sports talk show, except we get to see you,” says Boston sports radio host Mike Felger, an investor in Fancred, in a promo for the On-Air feature. In June, Fancred On-Air will also premiere a new series with Felger and former NFL tight end Jermaine Wiggins.

The hosts for Thursday’s live NBA Finals broadcast are comedian Michael Rapaport and Buster Scher, a 17-year-old YouTube NBA vlogger. The two will go live at 9 pm EST and provide commentary through the entire game. NBA veteran Brian Scalabrine will also join as a guest.

Michael Rapaport at the Mayweather-McGregor weigh-in on August 25, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Michael Rapaport at the Mayweather-McGregor weigh-in on August 25, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Rapaport lands at Fancred after Barstool Sports

Michael Rapaport, an actor and comedian who earned high praise for his guest turn on FX’s “Louie” in 2015, was a subject of sports media news in November, when he had a public falling out with the website Barstool Sports, which he had joined last June. Barstool had brought on Rapaport as a regular contributor in video and podcasts, but last November a public Twitter spat between Rapaport and prominent Barstool personalities led the site to fire him.

“As far as me and them, I’m just moving on,” Rapaport tells Yahoo Finance. “I’ve been in show business since 1991 and I’m not going anywhere. They can do their thing, I’ll move on.”

Rapaport is not joining Fancred full time, but it’s clear that more live broadcasts will come if the NBA Finals pilot gains traction.

“I think this is the wave of the future,” Rapaport says. “It’s the same as Instagram, Twitter, it gives you this up-close way to view sports. And everybody’s on their phones during the games. Now obviously I’m never going to be Marv Albert, I’m never going to have the experience and expertise of the great broadcasters. For me, with sports, I don’t try to act like I know it all. I’m a fan, and I try to keep it fan. It takes a genius to play a fool, and I don’t mind playing the fool.”

What Fancred On-Air looks like, via Fancred promo video.
What Fancred On-Air looks like, via Fancred promo video.

Big competition for Fancred in live video broadcasting

Of course, Fancred’s live broadcast faces competition from a wide range of distractions during the game, including an official NBA augmented reality offering. The biggest risk: what if Fancred users simply don’t tune in and engage with the broadcast? Disney, which is broadcasting the NBA Finals on ABC, has long offered similar alternate-broadcast options during big primetime games, like a “Coaches’ Film Room” commentary show during the College Football Championship. Of course, on those shows, regular fans can’t call in and appear on air—will that element on Fancred be an appeal for NBA fans, or a turnoff?

Football Nation CEO and Fancred president Andrew Miller is optimistic. “We’re excited about our first national, second-screen program during the NBA Finals Game 1,” he says. “On-Air is unique in its format of produced, audience-enhanced programming, where celebrity guests and fans can join the broadcast live on air, simply by pressing the Fan Line icon on the Fancred App on their phone.”

Football Nation’s other investments include the Instagram account @AllSportsNews (600,000 followers) and the app FantasySpin.

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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