In May, sports streaming service Buzzer added League Pass distribution to its portfolio, giving it a very important property considering their business model.
That model involves offering bite-sized stretches of live games for very little cost, an effort to tap into a younger market that isn’t theoretically isn’t interested in signing up for even something like YouTube TV or paying the full League Pass rate, much less subscribing to traditional linear television.
Building off that model, Buzzer announced a new round of fundraising, which includes investment from a long list of top athletes, including some very eye-catching names. From Kim Bhasin at Bloomberg:
Buzzer, a live-sports streaming service, has raised $20 million in funding from venture capital firms and a group of current and former franchise owners and athletes, including Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky.
Sapphire Sport and Canaan Partners led the round, which is set to be announced Wednesday. More than 20 athletes from across sports were also involved, including tennis phenom Naomi Osaka, football’s Patrick Mahomes and DeAndre Hopkins, and basketball stars Devin Booker, LaMelo Ball and Sabrina Ionescu.
They were joined by several team owners, such as Joe Lacob from the Golden State Warriors, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jeffrey Vinik, and Lerner Enterprises, the family firm behind the Washington Nationals.
Bringing on big-name athletes is a pretty standard way for a service like this to try and add some clout (even, daresay, some buzz) and you’ll likely see some of these names push out a few social media promotions for it as well. Buzzer is certainly an interesting concept, sort of offering the option to tune in to a game late if it’s good and, say, everyone on Twitter is talking about it, in the form of a microtransaction.
The on-the-go entertainment model was famously/infamously pushed by Quibi, too, which flamed out in spectacular fashion. But that was attempting to push an entirely new form of narrative content. For decades, though, people have flipped a channel after seeing a game was close and getting to the end. The NFL’s Red Zone channels have proven there’s a market for that as well.
Buzzer’s leadership has clearly found belief enough to raise capital, and getting more distribution rights in place is the obvious next step (hence the capital) along with raising awareness (hence the athletes.) It could work! It could also not work. But that beats the hell out of Quibi’s prospects, which never reached the “it could work” stage.