Young people are disenfranchised with traditional TV, and as mainstream media gravitates more towards quick content on platforms like YouTube and SnapChat the business opportunities are endless. Whistle Sports is the latest startup that is redefining what it means to be a media and entertainment company for young audiences. It creates and distributes content and accepts audience submissions, enabling a collaborative community to evolve. It also partners with leading athletes, tastemakers, and brands to produce engaging and humorous content.
AlleyWatch spoke with CEO and founder John West to learn what’s to come for this startup that investors are flocking to. To date, it has raised a total funding amount of $97M.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
$28M Series D. Investors included Liberty Media, Emil Capital Partners, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Aser Media.
Tell us about Whistle Sports product or service.
Whistle Sports creates, curates and distributes entertainment content that focuses on creativity, humor, and skill. As a company born into a collaborative, social and digital world, Whistle Sports approaches programming through an engagement first lens to entertain and inspire today’s generation. From scripted shows to user-generated content, Whistle Sports collaborates with brands, creators, athletes and tastemakers to produce engaging video content. Join the community and discover Whistle Sports’ latest series on YouTube and Facebook Watch.
I have three kids, and they love sports. As they were growing up, I watched sports media through their eyes. They weren’t engaged by long, live games or commentary from old guys in suits. Today’s generation has both a TV and a production studio in their back pocket. They are re-imagining media and sports and we are here to serve that market.
How is Whistle Sports different?
Being brand safe has really set us apart in our industry. We’ve done the research and the post-millennial values things like positivity, skill, humor. That’s what we focus on and it’s proven successful in terms of engagement.
What market are you targeting and how big is it?
We are excited to target a broader, international audience, which is one of the reasons why Aser was an ideal investor for this round. The possibilities and connections they bring in the European and Asian markets are going to help us expand our footprint. We are looking at over 2 billion young sports fans globally.
What’s your business model?
We have worked hard to create a varied, flexible business model. Whistle Sports monetizes by distributing our original content on a variety of platforms globally and bringing brands and advertisers into the social conversation across 2,000 channels in the Whistle Sports network. We’ll continue to diversify too – with this new investment, we are looking into live rights and direct to consumer opportunities. It’s extremely important that we remain fluid, so we can react to the quickly changing digital space when needed.
Who is going to win the World Cup?
Ronaldo is unstoppable! I think Portugal will end up taking it all home.
What was the funding process like?
Exhilarating. This the fourth time Whistle Sports is closing a funding round, and every time I see it as an opportunity to tell our story in the marketplace.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Explaining our business model. New companies being created today do not fit neatly into yesterday’s “boxes,” definitions or business models. We are a combination of data and analytics, social media, network of 500+ creators and a top-shelf production team.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
1) Our amazing team. 2) Our deep, analytically informed understanding of today’s young audience.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Continue to build our incredible team and expand our reach both domestically and internationally in Europe and Asia.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Stay true to your mission. Focus your team. Never give up.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Whistle Sports will focus on propelling forward using the massive network we’ve created with our 500+ creators and influencers, brand partners and social and digital platforms for global domination.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Shake Shack in Madison Park.