Stephen Curry and Brandon Armstrong play basketball. They also create millions of social media impressions among their audiences. Curry, the NBA’s most tantalizing superstar, generates buzz by raining threes from different area codes, while Armstrong does so by impersonating him and the league’s most recognizable players. On his Instagram account @BdotAdot5, you can find Armstrong’s humorous and spot-on impressions of Curry, Shaq, and Kobe just to name a few. Armstrong’s content often goes viral after being shared throughout social media channels, and has even been featured on NBA and ESPN broadcasts.
Social media personalities like Brandon Armstrong represent the new wave of sports content available on Whistle Sports. By tapping into the new generation of fans’ desire for relatable and sharable content, Whistle Sports has accumulated 28 million subscribers. After winning the Consumer Technology Association’s startup of the year award last week, the video platform is continuing to gain momentum. Like many social startups, Whistle Sports’ also holds an advantage in collecting user data and predicting where trends are headed.
Whistle Sports is concentrating their efforts on the 13-24 demographic, a group that engages with an additional two screens along with the TV when watching sports. According to CCO Bob Ciosek, the viewing habits of young fans changes the way content is consumed: “Instead of sitting back, choosing a channel, and watching whatever is on that channel, the under-30 set opens up Facebook or Snapchat or Twitter and says, ‘I’m just going to scroll, and whatever comes up that I like, I’m going to enjoy and then I’m going to like it and share it, and I’ll see more of that stuff in the future.’ That’s a totally different model of how sports fans engage with media.”
As a viewer that’s either simultaneously on my phone, laptop, or both doing just that, I agree with Ciosek’s assessment of the market landscape. However, I don’t believe the figures on social media and YouTube will replace the professional talent that’s being broadcast. While lesser-known sports like ultimate frisbee or social media celebrities complement the sporting world, the traditional media offerings by ESPN aren’t going anywhere. Although the industry is changing to include content that the teenage audience is interested in like “fails,” behind-the-scenes videos, crazy dunks, trick shots, and pranks, the industry itself is still based around the event and its athletes’ performance.
ESPN’s recent restructuring is another signal of the industry changing as new content is created. Since content is king, and it’s driven by its young influential audience, Whistle Sports’ outlook is extremely bright. The social and behavioral connections driving the new generation of fans positions Whistle Sports in competition indirectly based on content and directly due to its audience with ESPN. It will be interesting to see how these players strategize going forward.