Big hitters take a swing with Overtime investment

Jay Dieffenbach

A sports media startup called Overtime — with some seriously heavy backing — announced it has raised $80 million in new funding and has some big plans, including sports betting, in its future.

The Brooklyn-based company, which was founded in 2016, said Thursday its investors now include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (through Bezos Expeditions) and rapper Drake along with 25 active and former NBA players.

“When Overtime first launched, we were known for our raw and authentic sports highlights from across the globe,” Overtime’s president Zack Weiner, an ex-chess champion turned entrepreneur, said in a statement.

“Five years later, we’re the leading brand for the next generation of sports fans, reaching them through our social channels, our long-form series, our e-commerce business, and now a sports league.”

Initially, the focus was short-form content centered on high-school basketball stars but has expanded to other sports and now, though no specifics were given, that focus will also include trading cards, NFTs (non-fungible tokens collected and traded as a form of cryptocurrency) and sports betting tailored toward a younger audience.

The company is now valued at over $250 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“The breadth and diversity of this investment group, including leaders from business, entertainment, technology and sports, speaks to Overtime’s remarkable growth and our future trajectory,” said Overtime CEO and co-founder Dan Porter, formerly the head of digital for William Morris Endeavor. “We believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The company, with more than 125 employees, has raised more than $140 million in funding to date.

The NBA relationship

The company is well-positioned to leverage the momentum created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to overturn the ban on sports gambling. The level of interest shown Thursday with the inclusion of so many NBA players – which comes with a strong infusion of legitimacy for Overtime – leads to the natural conclusion that a stepped-up plan for sports betting is coming.

The NBA has become a leader in sports betting and pro sports technology, and its pursuit of sports gambling revenues and NFTs featuring blockchain technology is no different.

Commissioner Adam Silver has guided the league toward gaming and partnerships. His willingness to adopt and integrate tech certainly indicates a positive direction for the betting industry and NBA bettors.

The concept of “NBA Top Shot” is among the more prominent innovations, with fans able to buy and sell the league-licensed video highlights via blockchain technology (blockchains are a form of digital database, very secure, used to store a large amount of information).

And the league has embraced sports betting, too, with an “InPlay” app part of a partnership with online sportsbook operators.

The NBA’s senior vice president, head of fantasy and gaming, Scott Kaufman-Ross, said in a statement: “We are excited to be working with FanDuel and Simplebet to innovate together around the future of in-play betting for the NBA.

“NBA InPlay was built around engaging fans in real-time, and with the accelerated roll-out of sports betting across the country, this is a natural evolution of the product.”

Overtime’s existing audience a major benefit

The Overtime app, which provides stats, scores, analysis, humor, culture and other content, has the company well-positioned to step up its sports betting game. Its self-described promo says, in part: The Overtime app has everything you need to win your fantasy leagues and dominate your group chats: stats, scores, hot insights, humor, culture, kicks and more.

The company reports more than 1.7 billion views of its content per month, claiming an audience of nearly 50 million followers across platforms including Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.

The Overtime Gaming account alone boasts more than 122,000 followers.

Among the more recognizable new investors: Micromanagement Ventures (the family of the late David Stern), Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Jeff Kearl (via Pelion Capital), Morgan Stanley Counterpoint Global and Blackstone Strategic Partners.

Also, among the NBA people: Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Lonzo Ball, Will Barton, Anthony Edwards, De’Aaron Fox, Pau Gasol, Aaron Gordon, Danny Green, Zach LaVine, Kyle Lowry, Kenyon Martin, JaVale McGee, Khris Middleton, Kelly Olynyk, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish, Domas Sabonis, Garrett Temple, Isaiah Thomas, Klay Thompson, Thaddeus Young, Trae Young, Gerald Wallace, Hassan Whiteside, Andrew Wiggins and Nick “Swaggy P” Young.

The high school basketball league

This fall, Overtime will launch an Overtime Elite (OTE) program that pays 16-to-18-year-old basketball players $100,000 salaries to play in its league.

Overtime will guarantee salaries for all OTE athletes and hiring a dedicated staff of more than 80 employees (about half of which will be involved in content production). OTE’s inaugural season is set to begin this September.

Via its company website: “Overtime Elite (“OTE”) is a transformative new sports league that offers the world’s most talented young basketball players a better pathway to becoming professional athletes, while engaging and inspiring a new community of digitally native fans.

"The league offers a year-round development program combining world-class coaching, cutting-edge sports science and performance technologies, top-notch facilities, and a rigorous, highly personalized academic program that energizes and enhances each athlete’s journey from proficiency to pro.”

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