YouTube sports network Whistle Sports raises $28 million

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 13, 2015 8:02 AM

By Liana B. Baker

(Reuters) - Whistle Sports, a Youtube sports network aimed at millennials and kids, raised $28 million in a funding round announced on Tuesday that included investors such as European cable group Liberty Global and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Traditional media companies have been on the hunt to invest in YouTube networks, also known as multi-channel networks, or MCNs, which draw in younger viewers to watch inexpensively produced videos.

Walt Disney spent $500 million on Maker Studios last April while AT&T and the Chernin Group bought a Maker Studio's competitor, Fullscreen, in September.

Emil Capital Partners, a U.S. investing arm of Germany's Tengelmann, led the round, which included Liberty Global and Sky Broadcasting. Mannin, along with former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, are previous investors and also contributed to the round.

The company's valuation was not known.

It previously raised $8 million in a 2012 funding round.

Europe's Sky Broadcasting had previously disclosed that it invested $7 million in the company as part of this funding round.

Simon Freer, chief commercial officer at Liberty Global, said he was attracted to Whistle's growth potential, fast-growing revenue and subscribers base. Liberty could also strike content partnerships with Whistle Sports.

"There's some value we may be able to add around our other investments through All3Media and Little Dot, which is All3Media's MCN," Freer said in an interview.

Liberty partnered with Discovery Communications to buy London-based production company All3Media last March.

Founded by John West, a former competitive rower and entrepreneur, Whistle has 35,000 videos related to sports, ranging from professional sport leagues such as the NFL, the PGA Tour, NASCAR to Olympic sports and frisbee. It launched last January and now has 12 million subscribers and 225 channel partners who make videos, the company said.

(Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Ken Wills)