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Prep scores, texted to you

Sat., Oct. 11, 2008

Ann Joyce took her knack for numbers and created a service for local high school sports fans

After spending 12 years managing the Associated Press-Spokane bureau’s U.S. election results and sports scores database, Ann Joyce has a head for numbers.

Now she’s using that background to launch a Spokane company that sends text messages to people who want the latest high school prep scores.

Joyce launched from her Spokane home office this week.

With $20,000 from her savings and the help of three contract workers, she started small, offering just Greater Spokane League football, volleyball, girls soccer and slowpitch softball scores to subscribers.

Starting this winter, Preps2Go will add boys and girls basketball scores, Joyce said.

In a year or so, she hopes to expand the effort to other area high schools, including those in North Idaho.

Some newspapers, including the Washington Post, have delivered prep scores to readers through cell phones. But those efforts, Joyce said, didn’t cost subscribers a monthly fee for the scores. And the Post effort is available only to people who live near Washington, D.C.

Other companies, such as Fox Sports, have tested delivering text message scores for pro and college teams, but not for an entire league.

Joyce has deals to deliver text messages through all major cell phone carriers except T-Mobile. Preps2Go can deliver scores to subscribers anywhere in the country, Joyce said.

Here’s how it works: A subscriber who wants GSL football scores, for instance, pays $5.99 per month. Adding a second sport for a season costs an extra $5.99. For $9.99 the company offers e-mailed scores and standings in a single sport.

Joyce plans to gather scores the way the AP and local newspapers have done for years – by getting sports coaches to call in results.

After splitting revenue with the phone carrier, Preps2Go will give back a dollar to the school league for every subscriber (or $3 for each season subscription). Joyce said that’s her way of helping schools cover the costs of offering sports.

John Overby, a senior Sirti adviser and business coach for area tech companies, said Preps2Go offers a “niche service” that could become modestly successful.

“It’s very scalable, in that all the work involved could be automated and done from right here in Spokane,” Overby said.

Joyce has been approached about adding scores for individual sports such as tennis and cross country.

“A text message is limited to 160 characters, and it might be very hard to put scores into that form. We’ll take a wait-and-see approach” on adding more sports, she said.

The task she managed for the AP, gathering high school sports scores from more than 30 states, convinced her that thousands of prep-sports fans are out there and eager for information.

“I spent a lot of time at the AP trying to find a way to allow them to make money off this operation,” she said.

The AP, however, wasn’t looking to move into that kind of business. Joyce left the AP in August and hasn’t looked back.

“People think it’s a really cool idea,” she said.

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