- Last Updated: 12:14 PM, July 5, 2012
- Posted: 11:51 PM, July 4, 2012
This company is moving from Little League to the big leagues.
The Whistle, a new sports media company aimed at kids, has raised $8 million from a group of all-star investors that includes baseball’s Derek Jeter, football’s Peyton Manning and soccer’s Mia Hamm.
The new funding will help the company launch a host of digital tie-ins along with a programming block on NBC Sports Network, starting Sept. 21.
Rather than live sports, The Whistle will feature animation, library content from NFL Films and kids’ own video submissions, such as sports bloopers.
Founder and Chairman John West, along with former Gatorade executive Jeff Urban and Kit Laybourne, a veteran TV exec and the husband of former Nickelodeon boss Gerry Laybourne, have rounded up a total of 80 investors.
In addition to sports stars, The Whistle is backed by Clear Channel boss Bob Pittman and Bob DuPuy, a former Major League Baseball president.
Aimed at 6- to 14-year-olds, The Whistle is planning a website, an Xbox Live channel, a mobile app and a YouTube channel in an attempt to attract kids.
“Young kids want to find content, customize it, and they want to share it with friends. Emerging platforms are the key piece of our idea,” West told The Post.
The digital-heavy launch avoids the typical $100 million in startup costs for a cable network.
“This $8 million will get us through the launch,” West said.
The venture has snared three media partners to provide content: NFL Films, the US Olympic Committee and Kidshealth.org.
“I do think there’s room for more kids content,” Bernstein Research media analyst Todd Juenger said. “From an advertiser demand side, there’s absolutely more room.”
Juenger noted, however, that digital media propositions have to work harder to attract ad dollars and that competition for kids’ eyeballs has never been stronger, with Netflix, DVRs and gaming consoles also vying for their attention, alongside TV.
Juenger suggested that The Whistle will have to spend to promote its debut and build a mainstream audience.
The company has yet to sign up advertisers, but West said the firm has already shunned junk food ads, a hot-button issue for the industry.