Go Big or Go Home: Sports Media Companies Cash In


Maybe it’s the “larger than life”-sized player personalities. Maybe it’s the rabid, easy-to-amass audience segments. Or maybe it’s some marvelous combination of the two — but sports media brands are cashing up and turning pandemic-driven shifts in content consumption into new pathways for revenue generation.

First up is Overtime, which garnered a massive $80 million investment from the likes of Jeff Bezos, a slew of NBA players, and everyone’s favorite emo rapper Drake. Overtime has raised a total of $140 million over the past five years, expanding far beyond its initial focus on creating short-form content around high school basketball stars.

The sports media company will use this new round of funding to beef up its content creation capabilities — to produce non-fungible tokens (NFTs), of course — as well as continue development on its mobile app. The investment will also help pay salaries for the high school athletes that participate in its new Overtime Elite league.

Meanwhile, the NFL stirred the audio pot with news that it was partnering with Clubhouse for some “exclusive” content tied to the upcoming draft. What’s notable is that the partnership already attracted a big brand advertiser, as Courtyard by Marriott announced that it will host a draft-focused Clubhouse chat with NFL Network broadcaster Rich Eisen.

A few weeks ago Spotify acquired Betty Labs, the parent company of Locker Room, a sports-focused live audio app. And to complement its existing Opening Day media blitz, MLB launched an entire program of original content on Twitch. Add in the Overtime funding announcement and the NFL’s Clubhouse tie-up, and you see the trend emerging.

Investments are coming in hot for sports media companies and “digital-native” startups that can dangle shiny new objects like livestreams, audio chat rooms and NFTs at interested buyers.

What’s worth noting is that gigantic entities like the NFL and MLB don’t seem worried about cannibalizing their “legacy” broadcast user bases. Instead, they’re partnering with companies to boldly venture into untapped territory and court the younger generations (not to mention the Gen Xers and Boomers that may have gravitated to new platforms as a result of COVID).

So maybe NFTs won’t (ever) be one of your sales team’s line items. And maybe you think Clubhouse is a flash-in-the-pan. But is there room to partner with a company like Overtime, or Twitch, or even some lesser-known, digital-first platform, as a way to create interesting new ad products that pique your users’ (and advertisers’) interests?