Sky has invested $7 million in Whistle Sports, the world’s largest sport-focused cross-platform network as the two companies look to work together on creating exciting new content for younger sports fans, particularly ‘young millennials’.
Whistle Sports partners with online personalities who create unique video content themed around sports, sports brands and franchises. The network uses a combination of youth-orientated celebrities, innovative programming ideas and formats to make sport more accessible for younger audiences.
The partnership with Whistle Sports builds on Sky’s ongoing programme of investing in innovative start-ups that help Sky bring new ideas, insight and services into its business. This follows recent investments in Pluto.TV, the online video aggregator and the US ad tech firm Sharethrough. Sky has previously invested in a number of other pioneering US technology companies, including the IP streaming service provider Roku, the immersive 360 video specialists Jaunt and the video delivery firm 1 Mainstream.
Whistle Sports has a rapidly-growing library of videos covering a wide variety of sports including basketball, baseball, soccer, and American football, alongside emerging sports such as football freestyle, skateboarding, trick shots, and ultimate frisbee. It has relationships with stars such as Ultimate Frisbee champion Brodie Smith, Dude Perfect, Steve Roberts of STR Skill School and NBA player Jeremy Lin, who have millions of followers on over-the-top (OTT) video and social media platforms.
Whistle Sports also works with sports leagues and franchises such as the NFL, PGA Tour, NASCAR and Major League Baseball Advanced Media to help them engage with younger sports fans. They work together to create viral video content using Whistle Sports’ talent network along with sports stars and venues, to be shared across a number of platforms including YouTube and Xbox. Whistle Sports has over 8.3 million subscribers, more than 192 channels and over 1.25 billion views.
The relationship with Whistle Sports will offer Sky Sports the potential to collaborate on content creation and to share talent across both networks, as well as exploring innovative promotional opportunities aimed at introducing the respective brands – and their content – to new audiences.
Whistle Sports is based in New York but has offices in Los Angeles, Dallas and a new office in London, which is headed by former Global Head of Football for YouTube Jeff Nathenson. The new facility will give the Whistle Sports team easier access to Europe’s top leagues and athletes.
Barney Francis, Managing Director, Sky Sports, said that Whistle Sports had very quickly established itself in the US as a major new sports network. “We see lots of potential to harness Sky Sports’ content and relationships with major sports bodies and brands to work alongside Whistle Sports’ talent network. We look forward to exploring opportunities to collaborate on video content that helps broaden engagement in sport, especially for younger audiences,” he added.
Emma Lloyd, Director, Corporate Business Development, Sky, said the investment reflects the broadcaster’s ambition to partner with pioneering start-ups that could help extend its leadership in content distribution, especially online and on mobile. “We are committed to developing partnerships right across our business that support and extend our leadership position in technology and innovation,” she confirmed.
John West, Founder and CEO, Whistle Sports, described the partnership as “a tremendous fit” for the company, given its focus on international expansion. “Sky is a recognised leader in sports entertainment and delivery and brings to the partnership some of the highest quality creative and production teams in sports. We look forward to connecting them with our rapidly growing audience and community of creators.”
Since launching its Multi-Channel Network in January of 2014, Whistle Sports scaled to over 8.3 million subscribers and 190 channel partners who have an additional social media reach of over 20 million fans and followers.
The network’s content library of over 28,000 videos has been watched over 1.25 billion times. The company’s owners, investors and content partners include sports heroes such as Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning and pro league partners such as the NFL, PGA Tour, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, Major League Lacrosse, AVP (pro volleyball), Major League Soccer and the Harlem Globetrotters. The network has offices in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles and London.