Overtime, a digital-media startup with dreams of becoming an ESPN-size brand for high-school sports, has raised a $9.5 million Series A funding round, led by Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Also contributing to the round: NBA star Kevin Durant via his investment firm, Durant Co. He joins former NBA commissioner David Stern as an investor; Stern invested in the startup’s $2.5 million seed round in February 2017 led by Greycroft.
Andreessen Horowitz’s investment was led by Jeff Jordan, a former college basketball player who led the firm’s early investments in Airbnb and Pinterest. Other investors participating in the round include Greycroft, Afore Capital, Box Group, Fitz Gate Ventures, Imagination Capital, 645 Ventures and TACK Ventures, as well as individual investors Durant Co.’s Rich Kleiman, Redpoint Ventures’ Geoff Yang and Fox Sports Regional Networks exec Michael Spirito.
Brooklyn-based Overtime is focused on emerging high-school sports stars. Its staff and network of videographers produces short-form content for Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube to cater to a younger demo that is watching far less live sports on TV then their elders do.
The company was founded in the fall of 2016 by Dan Porter, a serial entrepreneur who previously served as WME’s head of digital, and Zack Weiner, a 25-year-old former chess champion turned entrepreneur. Porter, who is Overtime’s CEO, sold his games startup OMGPOP to Zynga in 2012 for $180 million (before Zynga shut it down the following year).
“There’s been this evaporation of a younger sports audience: They’re not watching a three-hour game; they’re watching sports highlights,” said Porter. Given that YouTube and Instagram stars are the new celebrities for teens, he added, “then old guys calling games and pontificating on television couldn’t be further out of touch from what kids want to watch.”
Overtime’s videos have been viewed nearly 1 billion times to date, and they’ve caught notice in the sports world. They’ve been picked up by ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, who featured an Overtime video on his Instagram feed. The company also has content partnerships with NBCUniversal’s SportsNet New York (SNY) and NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Porter said Overtime is drafting on the social-media reach of top high-school sports players — some of whom have hundreds of thousands of followers — who aren’t covered by traditional media. “Nobody had built a national brand for reaching these kids,” he said. “It’s the same dynamic as YouTube stars with massive followings.”
Added Weiner, who serves as the company’s president: “The market for pro sports is saturated. When these players supernova in high school, it’s exciting — and it gets us the young viewers.”
Overtime, whose headquarters is in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, currently has 24 full-time employees. In addition, it runs a network of more than 100 remote videographers, who submit on any given night more than 1,000 video clips of high-school b-ballers from across the country. “We don’t do scores. We don’t do live games. We focus on short-form highlights and behind-the-scenes stuff,” said Porter.
Here’s an example of Overtime content in action. During a Feb. 6 game, Mac McClung — a high-school senior from Virginia who’s heading to Georgetown U. this fall to play for Patrick Ewing — made an insane between-the-legs dunk. Overtime posted its video of the play a little after 6 p.m. ET; by 11 p.m., it was airing on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” as one of the top 10 plays of the day. A little more than 12 hours later, it had already been viewed more than 4 million times across Overtime’s accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and on SportsCenter’s Twitter feed and Instagram.
While Overtime has a huge focus right now on high school basketball, the company’s overall mission is dedicated to finding the next generation of sports superstars. Weiner noted that around 30% of Overtime’s views are related to high-school football.
Right now, Overtime makes money through brand partnerships, under which the startup provides content creation, distribution or both. Brands Overtime has worked with include Gatorade and Under Armour. Long term, Overtime hopes to create video channels that are distributed through internet-TV bundles (like Sling TV and YouTube TV), under which it would receive cable-like distribution fees.
Overtime isn’t alone in building a media business around high-school sports stars. Another player in the space is L.A.-based Mars Reel, founded by twin brothers Brandon and Bradley Deyo in 2010 when they were teenage college-hoops hopefuls.
Mars Reel recently closed $2.7 million in financing as part of an initial $4.7 million round of funding from investors including LeBron James, Maverick Carter, hip-hop artist Nas, Translation founder and CEO Steve Stoute; Bruce Tuchman, former global network chief for AMC, Sundance and MGM; and lead investor Robert Hisaoka. Mars Reel also inked a partnership with LeBron James’ Uninterrupted digital-media company to team on content development and distribution.
Pictured above: Overtime founders Zack Weiner (l.) and Dan Porter