SBD/February 1, 2012/Media

Child's Play: The Whistle Looks To Be A Sports Media Destination For Young Fans

The founders of sports media company the Whistle have a “single aspiration: create an ESPN for kids,” according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. ESPN’s "many spin-offs include none for the 6- to 16-year-olds in the Whistle’s sights." Rather than build an “old-style brick-and-mortar cable network,” Whistle is "plotting its digital domain out of its Web site; a channel on YouTube; channels that it hopes to occupy on the major gaming consoles; and time that it is buying on the NBC Sports Network." Whistle execs believe that their "audience can be found among the tens of millions of children who play organized sports and who navigate with increasing ease between televisions, computers, tablets, cell phones, apps and social media.” Whistle Chair John West founded the company with former Gatorade Senior VP/Sports Marketing Jeff Urban and former Nickelodeon Exec Producer Kit Laybourne. The company's website, thewhistle.com, is scheduled to make its debut Friday. The programming “will not resemble ESPN’s cut down to child’s size.” It will put “youngsters at the center of the mix, inviting them to upload their videos of backyard and organized games; to interact with pro athletes like DeMarcus Ware; to become sportscasters; and to re-enact some of the greatest plays in sports history.” It will also “provide games, instructional and animated shows, and programming created from footage leased from leagues and other entities.” The "first league agreement, with the NFL, is expected to be announced this week." The two-year deal lets the Whistle “use NFL Films content and develop original shows” with the league. If the "arrangement works, the NFL has the option to become a minority owner.” The Whistle’s deal to "carry its programming on a YouTube channel, which will be able to make use of the sports videos on the site, is to begin in April.” It will also have a half-hour block on Saturdays starting in September on the NBC Sports Network that is “designed to be an incubator for new ideas.” The venture’s investors include Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Mia Hamm, former MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy and Clear Channel Communications Chair of Media & Entertainment Platforms Bob Pittman (N.Y. TIMES, 2/1).
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