Most Followed Sports Media Brand on Social Media Adds DevinSuperTramp

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Whistle Sports has signed Devin Graham, better known as DevinSuperTramp, to create branded original content (including some longer-form) for the post-millennial sports network. The Whistle Sports Network (WSN), which produces, curates and distributes sports-related content (across social, digital and TV) for a youth audience, will add Graham to its talented network (500+) of creators (think: Dude Perfect, Nitro Circus). The extreme sports film-maker with a reputation for producing viral content for some of the world’s biggest brands (see: Ford, Intel), will bring a loyal following to the “most-followed (170 million subs/followers) sports media brand on social media”; 9 million followers across various social platforms, including 4.9 million YouTube channel subscribers. Content delivered by WSN generates +/- 2 million views per month.

Howie Long-Short: Whistle Sports remains privately held, but the company has raised $80.5 million to date; with much of the capital coming from publicly traded companies. iHeartMedia, Inc. (OTC: IHRTQ) participated in the company’s seed round, Sky (SKYAY) and Liberty Global (LBTYA) invested in their $28 million Series B round, and both Tegna, Inc. (TGNA, formerly Gannett) and NBC Sports Ventures (CMCSA, led round) invested in the company’s most raise; a $27.5 million Series C round in January 2017.

Fan Marino: Whistle Sports and DevinSuperTramp previously collaborated on a Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi and Papa John’s Pizza, a project called “The World’s Longest Touchdown Catch.” In the viral video (2.6 million views), Joe Montana throws a spiral out of an airplane cruising 14,000’ over California. A team of skydivers jump out after the loose ball, battling for it as they free-fall towards the earth’s surface. I won’t spoil who comes down with “The Catch”, but you can watch the video (and find out who grabs it), here.

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Facebook Hiring “Head of Sports Programming” To Bid on Rights

Facebook has announced it is looking to hire a “top level executive” to oversee sports rights acquisitions. The “head of sports programming”, will have a budget of “a few billion dollars” to buy broadcast rights on a global basis. The social network does not intend to produce sports broadcasts; it would like to stream events, partnering with leagues or broadcasters that have linear television distribution in place.

Howie Long-Short: Back in May, Zuckerberg said “the long-term goal is actually not to be paying for specific content like that” and that he would prefer to pursue a “revenue share model”; but those comments were made under the presumption FB would be producing the broadcasts. If the plan is simply to stream events and FB isn’t pursuing exclusivity, the up-front cash outlay becomes significantly more palpable (AMZN paid $5 million per NFL game, CBS/NBC (CMCSA) paid $45 million/game for TNF). EPL rights expire in ’18, with MLB and the NFL coming up shortly thereafter (’21 and ’22, respectively). Look for linear distribution rights to increase (again) with total broadcast rights skyrocketing, as the tech giants bid on streaming rights. I do not expect FAANG to receive any exclusivity in the next round of negotiations.

Fan Marino: Whistle Sports recently announced that it was creating its first exclusive show for FB Watch, the “Next Trickshot Superstar”; a 10-episode series, hosted by Chad Johnson that features trickshot artists competing for $25,000. As a video content creator, with a following of 375 million followers/subscribers (and growing 2.5 million/week), Whistle Sports has raised $80.5 million to date; TGNA, NBC Sports and CBS Sports all participated in the company’s $29 million Series C round, announced in January 2017.

Facebook reportedly seeking an executive whose job will be negotiating sports rights

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