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Fanatics Hires Google Executive to Lead Push Into Live-Streamed Shopping

Sports merchandise retailer Fanatics Inc. will enter the nascent business of live-streamed shopping in the U.S. with a new unit that is set to launch in the second half of this year, the company said.

Fanatics has named Nick Bell, who had been product leader at

Alphabet Inc.’s

Google and was previously vice president of content at

Snap Inc.,

to lead the operation as CEO of the unit, to be called Fanatics Live.

Live-streamed shopping has yet to grip consumers in the U.S. the way it has in China, despite investments in the space by companies including

Walmart Inc.

and ByteDance’s TikTok. 

Fanatics sees the potential for success thanks in large part to its internal database of some 90 million sports fans, said Mr. Bell.

It will host video events led by digital content creators and influencers who focus on trading cards. Much of the initial content will focus on “breaking,” in which creators will open new boxes of trading cards live on camera and sell them to followers. Viewers will be able to buy cards directly from Fanatics’ app or website, with the company taking a portion of that sale, said Mr. Bell.

Nick Bell formerly held leadership roles at Google and Snap.



Fanatics’ 2022 acquisition of baseball card company Topps Co.’s memorabilia division will be key to this new business, along with the company’s deals to produce trading cards for Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League, according to Mr. Bell.

The new division could eventually move into additional categories of sports memorabilia and other parts of Fanatics’ business, but its primary goal at first will be working with creators to entertain fans and followers, Mr. Bell said.

“We see a big opportunity here to create entertaining commerce experiences, because that brings people together and really opens up the collector market to a much wider base of fans,” he said. “We want the commerce aspect of this to be the byproduct of entertainment.”

Fanatics Live will take over the name of an existing offering within the company that focuses on meet-and-greet videos featuring famous athletes and their fans. That program will continue running under another name, according to the company. 

Mr. Bell reports to Mike Mahan, CEO of Fanatics’ collectibles division. His hire is the latest addition to Fanatics’ C-suite as the company develops several distinct business lines. 

In recent months, Fanatics brought on former Beats global head of marketing Jason White to lead marketing for its sports gambling division and hired a new chief financial officer for its collectibles business away from ticket seller StubHub Holdings.

Fanatics’ valuation reached $31 billion in December after a $700 million fundraising round led by private-equity firm Clearlake Capital Group LP.

Write to Patrick Coffee at [email protected]

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