The Players Tribune, the athlete-driven media outlet founded by former New York Yankee All Star Derek Jeter, has its own hitting streak when it comes to fundraising.
Less than a year after raising $3 million in its first outside financing, the online sports network has closed on $9.5 million of a planned $15 million round led by the white-shoe venture capital and later-stage investment firm NEA. Previous investors, including the entertainment conglomerate Legendary, also participated in the investment round.
The new money will be used to ramp up the company’s content and add new features, according to Players Tribune President and co-founder Jaymee Messler. Already the site is increasing its video presence with players recording segments directly for their audience and the creation of feature programming like Singular Focus, Chris Weidman’s training regime.
“Honestly it’s going to help allow us to further enhance the Players Tribune site,” Messler says. “We’re building a team of really great producers and editors and the athletes are giving us ideas.”
In the future, Messler expects to have shorter lifestyle segments appear on the site as well. “We’re going to be introducing that over the next year,” says Messler.
The relationship between The Players Tribune and NEA’s multi-billion dollar investment fund began at a Goldman Sachs conference where NEA general partner Jon Sakoda saw Jeter speak.
“He had started the Players Tribune and he didn’t know what it could become,” Sakoda says. “He was interested in how technology could accelerate and expand what he was trying to do [and] his vision was to give athletes a way to connect directly to their fans and to do so through authentic editorial content.”
At the time, Sakoda had recently made an investment in a firm called Blue Jeans Network, which was perfecting a multi-user messaging platform that could be used for two-way video communications among potentially thousands of different users. Sakoda saw ways the platform could be used by players to interact with hundreds, if not thousands, of fans, and thus began a partnership that would eventually blossom into the current commitment.
Unquestionably the legacy approaches to media are struggling. Jon Sakoda, General Partner, NEA
NEA is no stranger to content investment. The firm is one of the earliest (if not THE earliest) shareholder in Buzzfeed and is one of the largest investors in that media property. Sakoda says the commitment to Jeter and Messler’s vision for Players Tribune is part of a larger thesis that opportunities still exist in new media properties.
“Unquestionably the legacy approaches to media are struggling,” says Sakoda. “But I think there are unquestionably disruptive opportunities inside media and we’ve had some success in that already. You’ll continue to see us selectively make investments in the space.”
There you have it, you wannabe media moguls, NEA’s door is (at least somewhat) open.