London: 12 October 2015
Bigballs Media Limited
(“Bigballs Media” or “BBM”)
First Phase Fund Raise of £7.0m Completed
Accelerated Build of Next Generation Football Media Network
Bigballs Media, the digital fan-led football media business, announces that it has completed the raising of £7.0m ($10.6m) from media giant Liberty Global and the global venture capital firm, e.ventures. These investors have backed a highly ambitious growth plan against the background of considerable momentum that has built in the business.
Fan engaging digital content
Bigballs Media is a new model digital media business which was founded in 2006 and forged from a passion for storytelling in the digital age where real audience engagement, participation and community drive results.
The validation for this audience-first approach is demonstrated by the success of BBM’s Copa90 football brand and the wider Copa Network that now reaches and engages over 10 million young fans across the world. The business model is based around strong commercial partnerships with major sponsors such as Hyundai, Adidas, Nissan, New Balance and HTC.
The key to this success has been the appeal of the BBM’s approach to the many younger football fans who feel priced out of football. They want to enjoy the game on their own terms, hear different and uniting stories and see talent that genuinely represents them and their lives.
Liberty Global and e.ventures have backed this model because it is has a large and growing audience base attracted by unique intellectual property. Bigballs Media sees massive potential to disrupt a status quo currently dominated by expensive television offers and connect brands to its highly engaged audience.
The Story So Far
A recent corporate development was the acquisition of KICKTV, the largest digital channel for soccer news, culture lifestyle and entertainment in North America.
Content watch time, engagement rates and subscriber data have shown impressive and sustainable growth rates. Across all platforms, the Copa network, including KICKTV, has an audience of over 10m, cumulative views of over 110m and over 2.3m subscribers.
On average Copa90’s subscribers watch 37 minutes of Copa90 video and 4-5 videos per week and 63% of core viewers comment on a Copa90 video at least once each week. This year it became the largest football network on YouTube. Currently, Copa90 has 5 main presenters, over 50 reporters and film makers in 18 countries and, in the ‘Copa Collective’, over 100 fan culture reporters and facilitators, who are Copa90’s ‘eyes and ears’ on emerging football culture.
Hyundai was the main sponsor of Copa90 coverage of the 2014 World Cup. Bigballs Media can also now announce that Nissan has become the sponsor for Copa90’s coverage of this season’s European Champions League.
Bigballs Media is growing the business in the key markets of Europe, US and Asia - building out infrastructure to create, distribute, commercialise and build brands and partnerships in these territories. BBM’s content is being enjoyed in over 200 countries so localising and telling more relevant stories in each territory is expected to bring substantial increases in views.
Bigballs Media is investing heavily in content :
- Comprehensive coverage of major tournaments (Euros, Olympics, Copa America, World Cup, Women’s World Cup, U20 World Cup, European Champions League and the FA Cup)
- Increased coverage of major domestic Leagues including the Premier League, MLS, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Liga MX
- Telling the important football stories that traditional football media miss – Copa90 stories have included saving Real Oviedo, the Homeless World Cup, Amputee football, Money Ball and a Syrian refugee in the Bundesliga – all stories that have captured the imagination of the younger fan and are not covered by the established networks.
- Building out the global network of reporters, creators and film makers to give Copa comprehensive coverage of footballing stories around the world.
Bigballs Media is also increasing its investment in audience science technology, distribution and owned platforms - especially mobile where 60% of its content is consumed.
The Board & Management
The board is led by Tom Thirlwall, Chief Executive Officer, who previously held senior positions at IPG and Leo Burnett Group. Gary Stevenson, President and Managing Director of MLS Business Ventures, is a non-executive director as is Niall Curran, President of Liberty Global’s media investments group. Andreas Haug, a partner and founder of e.ventures has become an observer on the board.
MLS is also a shareholder in Bigballs Media via its sale of KICKTV to BBM in February 2015.
The senior management team includes Chris Maples, Chief Revenue Officer, who was formerly VP, Europe at Spotify and Commercial Director of Microsoft UK Advertising, and Nick Bourne, Chief Operating Officer, who was formerly at Dazed & Confused, News Corporation and Deloitte.
Bigballs Media was founded in 2006 by Chris Kelly, Gavin Rowe and Luke Taylor. Chris and Gavin are still involved in the management of the business as Executive Creative Director and Head of Channels respectively.
Tom Thirlwall, Chief Executive Officer, commented:
“We have the ability to change the landscape in sports media with our market leading proposition in content and fan engagement. We have become an authentic voice of fans in an era when the younger participant feels the football industry has forgotten them. We tell the stories that aren’t told by the major networks and our growth says that is what the younger fans want.
“We now have the resources to grow the business rapidly across multiple territories and are delighted to be backed by two of the most respected investors in the digital space.”
Niall Curran, President of Liberty Global’s media investments group, said:
“Bigballs Media has, in a short period of time, built a highly engaged fan community through its high quality, relevant and authentic sports content. We believe Tom and his team are well placed to continue to build a successful and distinct content brand.”
Tom Thirlwall, Chief Executive Officer
Bigballs Media Limited +44 20 7837 1700
David Bick/Brian Alexander
Square1 Consulting +44 20 7929 5599