Warner Bros Bets on Extreme Sports With Triathlon Start-up2 min read
A start-up in London that wants to capitalize on the popularity of triathlons has won Warner Bros Discovery’s support, demonstrating how media companies are increasing their wager on sports to boost subscription rates. A $30 million fundraising effort by the Professional Triathletes Organisation, which organizes competitions in the US, Canada, and Europe, includes Warner Bros as one of its sponsors.
The PTO, which attracted investment from its majority owner, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Michael Moritz, nearly three years ago, plans to use the new funds to expand its program of events and increase the amount of prize money for competitors.
Triathlon is a relatively new sport, with the first instance of the taxing competition—which calls for participants to swim, bike, and runs—dating to San Diego in 1974. Since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when it made its debut, the sport has become increasingly popular.
“Football, NFL, and tennis have been multibillion-dollar sports for a long time,” said PTO chief Sam Renouf. “In terms of business, triathlon has really been in the stone age, which is primarily why the PTO was established.” The investment comes after Warner Bros and the PTO agreed to screen the races live in July.
This week, Google’s YouTube secured the rights to broadcast some US National Football League games starting in the upcoming season, highlighting the value that broadcasters place on sports.
As the competition for mainstream sports intensifies, investors and broadcasters “will expand their horizons beyond the most obvious big-name sports and leagues”, according to law firm Divergent Investments, a Luxembourg-based private equity firm, oversaw PTO’s fundraising and made its initial investment after Francis Bento, a former derivatives trader, founded the organization last year. Latham & Watkins.
This year, extreme sports businesses other than PTO have attracted investment. A controlling interest in X Games was acquired from Disney’s ESPN in October by MSP Sports Capital, an investment company with a stake in the McLaren Racing motorsport organization. Biking, skateboarding, and snowboarding are just a few of the events in the series.
The Collins Cup, a competition with a $1.5 million prize pool that pits teams from Europe against those from the US and other countries, is the PTO’s main event. The PTO asserts that the sport needs to improve how it reaches audiences through broadcasting and streaming platforms. The PTO estimates that 10 million amateurs have competed in at least one triathlon.
“It [triathlon] appeals to the overachieving executive and the professional class, that isn’t a new trend,” said Renouf. “The entire point of the PTO is that despite having a hugely valuable global market, it is completely fragmented due to a lack of media products.”