Caffeine inks exclusive agreement with Drake preps Ultimate Rap League for launch

Two years after getting a $100 million commitment from 21st Century Fox to build a mobile-based live streaming platform that could compete with Twitch, the startup Caffeine has scored another coup by partnering with the biggest name in music — Drake.

With buying power of Fox Sports, a Murdoch on the board (Lachlan), and an exclusive contract with Drake, Caffeine is hoping to take its streaming service beyond gamers and sports and become the platform for live streaming entertainment of all stripes.

“The combination of the Caffeine platform with a content studio that benefits from Fox Sports’ expertise in live events and programming will help position Caffeine to deliver compelling experiences in esports, video gaming and entertainment,” said Lachlan Murdoch, in a 2018 statement. “We are excited to partner with Caffeine and build something special for fans in the growing live social streaming esports and gaming space.”

The multi-year collaboration with Drake, terms of which were not disclosed, will debut with the launch of Ultimate Rap League, a battle rap platform which was distributed on its own app as well as through YouTube.

As part of the deal Caffeine will live stream and co-produce new rap battles alongside Ultimate Rap League. It’s the first property that Drake ad Caffeine are jointly bringing to market and presages other live events and content that Drake will shepherd to production, the company said.

“I’ve always loved URL and admired what Smack and his team have been able to create, it just wasn’t accessible. It’s exciting to be in a position where I’m able to bring Caffeine to the table and help provide URL with the tools they need to elevate the viewing experience and make it more accessible to fans,” said Drake in a statement.

Drake has a history with SmackURL. He was called out to battle rap on the platform back in 2015, but declined to show.

Initially created by Troy “Smack White” Mitchell as an event series in New York’s Queens borough, home of hip-hop artists Nas, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Mobb Deep, and A Tribe called Quest, the Ultimate Rap League boasts a roster of boosters including Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Joe Budden, Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, Kid Capre, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def and Method Man. 

“We are proud to partner with Drake and support him as he brings his vision and channel to life,” said Ben Keighran, Caffeine’s founder and chief executive, in a statement. “As a platform, Caffeine gives Drake the freedom to pursue his creative ideas and we are excited about the whole slate of fresh content that he will share with his communities.”

Keighran, a former wunderkind product designer at Apple, has grounded Caffeine’s pitch in the technology that the company has developed from its Silicon Valley headquarters to stream live video. The company boasts that its streams are 15 seconds to a minute faster than other streaming platforms. In addition, the company prides itself on its moderation technologies and use of human moderators to ensure a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, hate speech and racism, the company said.

Caffeine bases its appeal to artists on a revenue share model that is more generous than other streaming platforms like Twitch or Mixer — a model based on in-app purchases and tipping.

Drake may be the biggest artist to join the Caffeine platform, but he’s far from the only one. The company’s roster of talent includes the musicians Offset and Doja Cat, athletes like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Collin Sexton, and Kyle Kuzma and gamers including Cartoonz, Ohmwrecker and Crainer.