- Sports media startup Overtime is expanding into gaming in a bid to expand its Gen Z audience and ultimately become the next ESPN.
- Instead of just covering esports as traditional media companies have done, it’s creating teams around popular games “NBA 2K” and “Fortnite” and signing gamers to play for them.
- Overtime aspires to become like esports companies like FaZe Clan and 100 Thieves that are building businesses based around gamers’ personalities.
- The opportunity is to build big audiences around the gamers and sell related merch and sponsorships.
- Working directly with pro gamers carries risks given the need for player care, though.
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Overtime, a sports media startup that’s raised $33.5 million in funding, wants to become the next ESPN, and it’s diving into esports in its latest step in that effort.
But unlike traditional media companies that treated esports as another coverage area, Overtime is creating teams itself and building a content strategy around them, starting with “NBA 2K” and “Fortnite” teams.
In this way, cofounder and CEO Dan Porter aspires to mimic the success of buzzy new companies that are thriving on the popularity of gamers as personalities and entertainers. Two in particular he’s eyeing are FaZe Clan, which has 15 professional gamers and many more content creators; and 100 Thieves, which just raised $35 million.
For its “2K” team, Overtime signed five gamers to exclusive contracts, similar to any pro team, but chose them just as much, if not more, for their personalities as their gaming abilities. Together they have 2.5 million fans and include Hank da Tank, a gamer with over 800,000 subscribers on YouTube; and Cole the Man, with over 570,000 subscribers. In a recent video, Cole the Man, who is 22, took viewers along to show him buying a Lamborghini.
They’re “the LeBron James of ‘2K’,” Porter said. “We start out of the gate not with people no one has heard of. We signed superstars.”
To build out its gaming arm, Overtime hired recent high school grad Chris Toussaint, who was managing the Orlando Magic’s “NBA 2K” gaming team at age 18. Toussaint said he found the gamers while working down in Orlando.
“I loved the content they brought to the table,” Toussaint said. “They create content that appeals to ‘2K’ fans. It was their personalities, how entertaining they were as a group.”
The plan is to create content starring the team members to be distributed on YouTube, Instagram, and the like, including a reality series set to launch in the spring at the team’s Miami homebase, and use their established social followings to help spread the videos. Overtime has a small content team dedicated to gaming content, which it aims to grow to about 10.
Overtime sees the potential to make tens of millions from esports
Overtime began in 2016 as a platform for people to share high school sports clips and has branched out to more than 25 socially distributed video series. Along the way, it’s raised funds from backers including the likes of Andreessen Horowitz and former NBA commissioner David Stern.
Porter said he always planned to expand to esports because it’s key to the Gen Z audience Overtime is targeting, and that the time was right now that the company had built a foundation in big team sports like football and basketball.
Professional gaming is projected to be a $1.5 billion business by 2023, helped by the popularity of “Fortnite” and interest from celebrities like Michael Jordan and Drake. It’s gained legitimacy from advertisers and media outlets like ESPN and Turner’s Bleacher Report that are devoting budgets to it.
Bleacher Report, which also aims to be the sports destination for young fans, considers gaming a key focus. It’s planning to staff up in the year ahead and work more directly with gamers by potentially doing exclusive content with them like livestreams or AMAs that’s meant to increase the audience for both Bleacher Report and the gamers themselves.
“This is a category we’re bullish on,” said Bennett Spector, SVP of programming there.
Over time, Porter’s goal is to build big audiences for the series and sell related merch and sponsorships — even sell some of the video series to a broadcaster one day.
“I’m not in this to play small ball — I’m trying to build a billion dollar business,” Porter said. “If you look at the absolute biggest esports teams, they’re generating tens of millions in revenue. It’s sponsorships, jerseys, potential live events. There’s a huge appetite for gaming content, and a lot of it is not able to be produced at a high level.”
Getting a direct track to professional gamers by creating a team and hiring someone like Toussaint could be a way for Overtime to build a diversified business though commerce and advertising, said Seth Hittman, who is CEO of Transmit.Live, a video tech company that serves esports companies and invests in esports.
A question is whether Overtime can find operational synergies across its teams and balance the demands of managing a team with the rest of its business, he said.
Another concern for any company with a direct relationship with gamers is player care, with growing awareness of mental and physical health concerns associated with gaming, he added.
SEE ALSO: Inside Bleacher Report’s strategy to win over sports gamblers, who it says are 5 times more engaged with its app than other sports fans
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