Even the founders of AccuScore, a tech startup that runs statistical simulations of games to forecast scores, concede it's a nerdy way to follow sports.
The L.A. company has developed software that mathematically calculates everything from player performance and weather to coaching strategies of teams playing in professional and college sports leagues, including the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and NCAA football and basketball.
It uses patent-pending algorithms to simulate a single game, one play at a time. The same game is then simulated 10,000 times, distilling the possible configurations of player statistics and coaching strategies to get the most accurate forecast of the outcome.
The AccuScore analysis of its forecast, such as whether a team can increase its chances of winning by using a certain strategy, becomes fodder for news media, from mainstream broadcasters and publishers to fantasy sports enthusiasts.
AccuScore landed one of its first contracts in 2005 when Yahoo Sports asked the company to provide statistics on past games and then compare them with Yahoo's data. The company outmatched Yahoo's forecasts.
After sealing its first licensing agreement with Yahoo, the company, now with seven employees, locked in contracts with ESPN and CBS Sports.
"Sports is often about debate, or 'My team is better than your team,'" said Patrick Stiegman, vice president and executive editor of ESPN.com. "This is another tool to allow fans to know a little bit more about their teams than their best friends or win their arguments around the water cooler."
As a precursor for the NCAA basketball season, ESPN.com created an online bracket where users can simulate every combination of matchups based on AccuScore data.
It's content Stiegman calls "sticky" or the kind that attracts and keeps users on the site, the kind that advertisers love.
A turning point for AccuScore, which is bootstrapped and shares its office space with another startup, was in December 2006.
With three weeks left in the regular season, AccuScore predicted that the Chicago Bears would host and beat the New Orleans Saints in the National Football Conference Championship Game. ESPN.com listed predictions by AccuScore and eight football experts. Only AccuScore forecast a Bears' victory.
The Chicago press noted the accurate pick and now AccuScore data is regularly used by sports writers across the country, including those at the Los Angeles Times, for pregame analysis.
One challenge for the company has been turning 500,000 rows of data on its turbocharged Excel spreadsheet into a compelling story for the audience.
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