NewFronts 2016: Whistle Sports Touts Shows, Talent, Partnerships

Slate includes 'F2 Vs. USA,' with freestyle soccer stars, and eSports 'Hall of Gamers'
Whistle Sports Creators web.jpg

New York -- The NewFront event staged this morning by Whistle Sports, home to millennial-appealing sports stars including trick-shot experts Dude Perfect and to this pre-Super Bowl 50 stunt where Joe Montana re-creates "The Catch" by passing a football from an airplane to a team of skydivers, kicked off with a brass band (Brooklyn United) and soon featured a plea to help fitness-video producers B.U.F.F. Dudes surpass 1 million subscribers on YouTube.

By that afternoon, the Dudes ((brothers Hudson and Brandon White) had in fact topped 1 million subscribers, which was cause to celebrate with a Facebook live event, Whistle Sports EVP Brian Selander said later.  

At the NewFront event in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, Selander and other Whistle Sports executives cited various milestones as signs of growth since the company's first NewFront a year ago. Among those were 2016 partnerships with "linear" TV companies NBC, TEGNA and Sky. 

Sky, the United Kingdom based programmer, is partnering with Whistle Sports on F2 Vs. USA, a new show in which two freestyle soccer stars (who have 3.6 million YouTube followers) travel this country and meet Major League Soccer stars to produce trick shots and other videos. F2's Billy Wingrove and Jeremy Lynch attended the NewFront. "After the U.K., our second biggest demographic is here in the States," Wingrove said. "With soccer being in the U.S. one of the fastest growing sports in the world, to be a part of that journey and to be filming with players and clubs in the MLS, it's a dream come true. So we can't wait to get this going."

The Whistle Sports model is to back video creators (see photo) whose ideas look promising, based on research and analysis of the company's audience. That audience, it says, drives more than 1.3 billion minutes of watch time, 750 million views and nearly 100 million engagements (likes, comments, shares) per month. Whistle Sports then seeks partners, backers, distributors for the shows.

Last year's slate included Dunk League, a basketball competition that was one of the more popular programs on Verizon's mobile ad-supported go90 platform, according to Whistle Sports. Selander said the "human drama" of that show would have worked well on mainstream TV. The new shows slated include another version, Legends of Dunk, which is a slam-dunk basketball competition featuring eight regional competitions around the world.

"The good news is all of them work on either kind of screen," Selander said of the new shows, in an interview. "And we've got brands and linear providers and digital platforms that have expressed interest in some or all of them."

Other new shows include Hall of Gamers, the programmer's first foray into eSports gaming, this time pitting athletes against gamers; Battlegrounds, another competition show that "challenges creators to accomplish epic feats;" Crushing History, a short-form show involving re-creations of famous moments from sports history with new spins and exciting settings (such as Montana's aerial pass); and 50 Large, a nationwide competition consisting of 50 separate games, one per state, with $50,000 to spend.

Whistle Sports also released new research about how 13- to 24-year-olds consume sports media, which it called a Game Time Report.