Go With Your Gut: The Secret to Whistle Sports Network’s Success

By Karen Fratti 

whistle logoLast year, Whistle Sports launched its YouTube network on the hunch that millennials weren’t watching sports the way they used to. Almost a year later, the network has grown substantially with 208 channels and over 9,000,000 subscribers. Last month, BSkyB  invested $7 million in the network in an effort to expand their “ongoing programme of investing in innovative startups that help Sky bring new ideas, insight and services into its business,” according to a statement. In other words, to evolve into the new, digital market.

I was able to talk with Brian Selander, executive vice-president of Whistle, about how they’ve grown.

Lost Remote: There’s a Dude Perfect video that garnered 4.2 million views in 24 hours. How do you make that happen?
Brian Selander: Within a week, that video’s viewership actually swelled to over 10 million views and 170,000 shares on Facebook alone, with millions of additional views on YouTube. The real secret is that there is no secret. It’s about finding incredibly compelling creative partners who are actively engaged with their fans and are building loyal followings by also being great people.That video happened to be a sponsored integration from the Archery Association, which other companies have noticed.
Last decade’s model for many major brands around video content was “let’s make a really catchy video and hope it goes viral.” But there’s so much more being created and being distributed now that it is so much harder to break out. So being able to bring creators with a built in subscriber base on multiple platforms gives every video a major boost at launch.
Lost Remote:  You guys are crossing the pond. Is there anything about building up European channels and creators that’s different than how you operate for the U.S. market? 
Selander: The great news is that the values behind sports are truly universal – courage, resilience, teamwork, drive. Great athletic achievements tend to translate into any language.
We were thrilled to announce this fall that the former global head of football/soccer at YouTube joined Whistle Sports to open our London office and help drive our international growth. We have multiple pro leagues as investors and content partners here in America like the NFL, PGA, MLBAM and NASCAR but Sky brings a new set of rights and relationships that we can leverage.
Lost Remote: It’s been a busy first year for Whistle. What’s your strategy? 
Selander: True. We formally launched The Whistle Sports Network on New Year’s Eve with a small handful of incredible channel partners and a commitment to building a community that would help support other creators who wanted to be part of our excitement. Over 200 channels, including pro athletes like Jeremy Lin and the “Lebron of Lacrosse” Paul Rabil, have joined or launched their own channels since.
Hiring the right people played an incredible part. We have a team that includes a head of digital Julie Kikla who was a founding member of the YouTube Sports team and Dev Sethi, who was a founding member of the Google acquisitions team. They’ve build strong teams around them.
You can follow them @TheWhistle for updates, news, and the “best sports videos”