Discovery Communications – the global media and entertainment group and owner of Eurosport – has led an investment round, taking a 20% stake in Play Sports Group – the digital sports media company behind the popular cycling YouTube channels Global Cycling Network (GCN) and Global Mountain Bike Network (GMBN). Discovery has also taken a seat on the Play Sports Group board.
In January 2017, Play Sports Group ‘reached more than 20 million cycling fans’ with content posted across its YouTube channel and its Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat profiles. In just four years, the business founded by ex-Future Chief Operating Officer, Simon Wear has become an international digital media success. Publishing more than 1,100 videos a year, its channels are focused on ‘creating compelling, entertaining and educational videos presented with passion by a team of former professional athletes’. Cycling fans are taken behind the scenes and get to hear from their heroes, such as world class superstars such as UCI Road Champion Peter Sagan and UCI Downhill Champion Danny Hart.
Eurosport is the ‘number one sport destination in Europe and new home of the Olympic Games’, as well as a leading rights holder in cycling with an established position as a home of cycling, showing all three of the Grand Tours, including the Tour de France, and all five Monuments. Last month, Eurosport confirmed that exclusive and extended Giro d’Italia coverage and additional races would form part of its calendar from 2017, ‘meaning cycling fans will enjoy over 200 days of live cycling on Eurosport this year’.
This investment and commercial partnership with Eurosport enables Play Sports Group to ‘rapidly scale its business, bringing its content to cycling fans, wherever they are’. The company will launch further channels in cycling and across other sports, hiring up to 150 people for newly created digital and creative roles over the next two years – predominantly based at its HQ in Bath UK, as well as a small number based in new international offices.
Discovery leads this latest round of funding, which has also been supported by its existing investor group – including Andrew Croker (Chairman), Oli Slipper (Non-Exec Director), John Gleasure and Stef D’Anna (Perform), Tony Ball (ex Sky and BT), Paul Bolwell (ex Wiggle) and Humphrey Cobbold (Pure Gym, ex Wiggle).
Ralph Rivera, Managing Director at Eurosport Digital, and Sameer Pabari, SVP Business Development at Eurosport will join the newly formed Executive Board.
Simon Wear, Founder and CEO of Play Sports Group said “Passion for cycling is the biggest it’s ever been and as a lifelong fan, I know it’s one of the most robust and enduring sports that’s ever existed. I’m delighted to have Discovery Communications and its leading sports brand Eurosport join our incredible list of investors and advisors. It’s extremely clear how determined and smart they are in the development of their digital business, and we’re really looking forward to working with the team.
“Thanks to our team of investors, we’re able to make our business ambitions possible. Their backing and financial support enables us to really turbo-charge the next phase of growth, bringing around 150 new people to digital and creative roles. There’s an audience of hundreds of millions of cycling fans around the world, and together we’ll get closer to them than ever before.”
Peter Hutton, CEO of Eurosport, highlighted the deal as another breakthrough in delivering an improved digital experience for cycling fans “Eurosport’s community of cycling fans is among the most passionate and devoted in sport, so we are excited to deepen our position as Home of Cycling even further.
“Working with a digital media company that is squarely focused on cycling is an excellent proposition for Eurosport to align with, and it’s another example of how we’re nurturing sports communities and making sure viewers have access to their favourite sports content whenever and wherever they choose to access it. This deal turns up the volume on the Eurosport’s Digital business, which includes Eurosport Player – the all- access on demand digital pass, and Eurosport.com – Europe’s No 1 online sports news website.”
Hutton added, “With the Play Sports content integrating our brand and services, this multifaceted partnership will be a winning result for advertisers, partners and most importantly, for fans of cycling.”
Play Sports Group was advised by Jonnie Goodwin and Nick Bell of Lepe Partners and lawyers Burges Salmon.
The Play Sports Network is billed as the world’s leading creator of cycling digital video distributed on YouTube and Facebook. The digital sports media company is focused on the world of cycling. It has built a leadership position in the market, reporting 82% year-on-year growth in video views to over 25 million in January 2017.
Play Sports Group operates two market-leading YouTube channels, Global Cycling Network and Global Mountain Bike Network, with over 1 million subscribers and millions of fans across associated social media platforms. The presenters are ex-pros from the very highest levels who connect with the fans, and with world class athletes.
Headquartered in Bath, England, the company is backed by an investor group that includes Discovery Communications, Andrew Croker (Perform, IMG), Oli Slipper, John Gleasure and Stef D’Anna (Perform), Tony Ball, (Sky & BT), Paul Bolwell and Humphrey Cobbold (Pure Gym & Wiggle). PSG also includes the award-winning cycling media agency, SHIFT Active Media which works alongside some of the biggest, most high profile brands in the cycling world.
Eurosport is the ‘number one sport destination in Europe’. As the new ‘Home of the Olympic Games in Europe’, Eurosport will aim to deliver the ultimate Games experience to ‘more people, on more screens, than ever before – bringing fans closer to their local heroes through year-long storytelling’. Firmly established as a home of cycling, grand slam tennis and winter sport, Eurosport channels – Eurosport 1, Eurosport 2 and Eurosportnews – reach 236 million cumulative subscribers across 94 countries in Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.
Eurosport.com is Europe’s No 1 online sports news website with an average of 14.5 million unique users per month. In addition, Eurosport Player, the all-access on demand digital pass, is available ‘anytime and on any device in 52 countries’. Eurosport Events specializes in the management and promotion of international sporting events.