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Sports engagement startup Rooter finds its mojo in game streaming

Indian sports community platform Rooter has managed to convert Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity by pivoting to live streaming of video games. The move has more than tripled the daily active users (DAUs) and doubled the monthly active users (MAUs) on the platform, from pre-Covid time.

The jump in the number of visitors is despite the fact that the live sports had come to a sudden halt across the world during the peak of the pandemic.

“We are a sports community and when the live sports stopped, it was a massive crisis for us,” said Piyush Kumar, founder and CEO, Rooter. “We were very clear that we didn’t want to get into real money gaming (RMG) or fantasy sports. So the most logical expansion of the product was content. We can’t acquire live sports rights, so game streaming was the good option. It has worked very well for us and for the gamers.”

Even during the lockdown, the teams at Rooter were working full time on the streaming product. It developed its own tech in six weeks, and launched a game streaming feature in Mid-May.

“I see a humongous opportunity in game streaming. The country has 350 million gamers and the number has grown exponentially. However, if you see the space, there are only three Indian players. This is exactly where the video streaming or OTT (over-the-top) industry was in 2016. The only difference in that we don’t have to pay for rights. It is content owned and produced by platform and users,” Kumar said.

While globally, there are dedicated gameplay streaming platforms like Twitch TV, S

mashcast, Hitbox and Beam, a lot of players prefer YouTube and Facebook.

In India, YouTube is one of the biggest platforms for game streaming, while a few more start-ups have also sprung up in the last 1 year, including Rheo TV and Loco, apart from Rooter.

“In the last 4 months, we have grown fastest, both in terms of number of daily users as well as streamers on the platform and targeting 33 million users by June 2022. Our only competition is YouTube,” Kumar added. “Going forward, our core offering will be game streaming, and sports will be the second layer around it.”

When it launched in June 2016, Rooter’s focus was on building a community of sports fans via live prediction games, match chat forums, quizzes, trivia, and news updates. The platform was launched to bridge the gap in the sports fan engagement market through a tech product. Its launch coincided with the Euro 2016, and later the platform added cricket, football, tennis and other sports to its folio.

However, the engagement was still dependent on live sports, Kumar said. Later with the rise of user generated content (UGC) platforms like TikTok made Rooter add live sports to the app in January this year.

And while the addition of UGC brought more sports fans to the site, the USP of the platform was still content during the live matches. Rooter was targeting to reach 500,000 DAUs with the Indian Premier League (IPL) season in April. However, the league then suspended.

Since the launch of the game streaming service, Rooter has clocked 4 million app downloads at no cost, and has built a huge community of gamers, which includes 80,000 from South India alone.

“What we have witnessed is a hockey-stick growth. At this stage, Rooter is trending among the top 5 sports apps consistently, purely on user downloads. Our ad revenues are going up, while influencer activity has also gone up. We are signing exclusive deals with gamers.

In May, in the middle of the pandemic, Rooter had raised $1.7 million (around Rs 12.8 crore) in pre-series A round from a clutch of new and existing investors, including Paytm, Adidas Family backed fund leAD Sports, Rockstud Capital, Founder Bank Capital, an early stage arm of RB Investments, Anthill Ventures, Venture Catalysts, and other angel investors.

The company is now in talks to raise Series A round later this year.

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