Sports

M.L.B. Signs Deal With Operator of NFT Fantasy Game

Major League Baseball is getting deeper into NFTs.

The league this morning said it had signed a deal with Sorare, a start-up in Paris that operates a fantasy sports game featuring NFTs, or nonfungible tokens. Users can pay to collect tokens representing players, and the tokens accumulate points commensurate with how well the players do in real games.

A Sorare spokeswoman said the company was providing M.L.B. an upfront payment guaranteed against future royalties from the sale of tokens, but declined to provide a dollar value for the deal. The league and Sorare will share revenue from sales of the tokens, which are also traded among players of the fantasy game.

The tokens will vary in price depending on their rarity: Sorare tokens for other sports like soccer have changed hands for free and sold for as much as $600,000.

Sorare is among a rising crop of venture-backed start-ups that make use of the NFT, a kind of digital deed that confers ownership of a distinct item or a special service. Last year, Sorare raised $680 million at a valuation of $4.3 billion from investors, including Benchmark, an influential venture-capital firm that placed early bets on Uber, eBay and WeWork.

In an interview, Nicholas Julia, Sorare’s chief executive, said the company was profitable and last year generated about $100 million in revenue, which it shared with leagues.

The deal with M.L.B. is part of a broader strategy for Sorare to expand into the United States by courting fans of other popular sports leagues, Mr. Julia said. The company has opened an office in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood and has begun hiring American executives, including Ryan Spoon, a former ESPN executive who was most recently the chief operating officer at BetMGM.

This isn’t the first NFT deal for M.L.B. In April, the league announced that it was expanding its pact with Candy Digital, a company that produces NFT baseball cards. Major players in sports media and tech are seizing upon NFTs as a promising line of business, with the likes of the N.B.A. and the N.F.L. Players Association exploring new opportunities.

Sorare could face major competition from established companies that operate rival fantasy games. DraftKings, the publicly traded daily fantasy and sports betting company, last year struck a deal to create Reignmakers Football, an NFT fantasy game.

In an interview, Mr. Spoon said that Sorare had an edge on the entrenched players because it was not distracted by building other businesses or managing to a quarterly earnings call.

“Our partners and our players expect us to focus exclusively on this,” Mr. Spoon said.

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