Each year, hundreds of millions of kids from around the world are introduced to sports. I was one of them starting back in 1988. My life was designed around sports starting at the age of six and continued, without interruption, until I took off to college when I was 18. This level of involvement meant that sports was more than a game I played on nights and weekends. It was my social circle for much of my life and it’s where I spent some of the best time with family too – playing alongside my brothers, having them cheer me on from the sidelines, or being coached by my dad. Sports also served as a purveyor of valuable life lessons, such as the value of teamwork, hard work, determination, and so on.
Despite the significant role that sports played in my life, however, I have almost nothing left from those years other than memories and a box of miscellaneous home run balls, trophies, and newspaper clippings buried in a box, tucked deeply into the corner of my closet, only to be revisited in a random bout of nostalgia once or twice a decade. No video footage. No letters from college scouts (because I was never “discovered”). And no way of sharing those moments with family members that didn’t have the chance to be there while I played.
That’s how things were when I played in the 80’s and 90’s – but with today’s technology, that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Which leads me to the team at BallerTV and why I am keen to invest in this remarkable company.
BallerTV makes it easy for anyone to watch live streams of high school sports from a growing list of games across the country, whether it’s a family member who is unable to attend an away game or a college scout looking for talent in parts of the country they typically can’t cover. Not only can users watch games being broadcast live but they can access unlimited replays, download games to keep a digital memory to revisit, and player profiles that include highlight reels helping today’s up-and-coming players get discovered by other coaches and scouts.
I first met the founders Rob Angarita and Aaron Hawkey over coffee in the summer of 2018. They shared their passion for sports and their prior entrepreneurial history as co-founders of a product called Cramster, which was sold to Chegg and is now know as Chegg Study. They unpacked their vision for BallerTV and helped me understand the potential for the business and the underlying drivers they see shaping the industry that they are helping to create.
- Professionalization of amateur sports: high school sports is becoming increasingly professionalized much like college sports did beginning in the 1980’s. ESPN televised Lebron James’ high school games in the 90’s and Sports Illustrated has placed at least 13 high school athletes on it’s covers dating back to the 1980’s. The All American Games started in 2000 and has been broadcasting the best high school athletes from every major sport ever since. And recently, the rate of professionalization has increased via the dominance of AAU basketball (and several other AAU sports), having largely replaced the role of high school teams in the discovery and recruitment of top amateur talent.
- A new distribution method: whereas college sports benefited from mainstream cable television adoption, high school sports benefits from online services such as Youtube and now BallerTV. The first college sports game was broadcast on TV in 1939 but it wasn’t until mainstream adoption of cable television that college sports took off both in terms of viewership and revenue. As of 2017, the NCAA basketball tournament (better known as March Madness) generated $1B in television advertising revenue by itself. A similar ascent in viewership and revenue is starting with platforms like BallerTV. For example, players like Zion Williamson have amassed tens of millions of views of their high school highlight reels. He is just one of thousands of other amateur players to gain notoriety online before making the transition to college.
- Lower cost game production: ESPN, CBS and other major networks only broadcast major amateur events (such as the McDonald’s All-American games) because they can only make the economics work for marquee events, given prohibitively high production costs. Turns out it is expensive to haul large television production equipment across the country and staff the event with highly paid on-air talent. In comparison, BallerTV is able to shoot amateur games at a fraction of the price as traditional broadcast television because of the proprietary technology they’ve created and ongoing advances in hardware, software, and communications technology.
- Scalable organic growth: BallerTV has built an incredible brand within the amateur sports community. So much so that high school programs, tournaments, and leagues are banging down their door, asking BallerTV to record their games because parents and players find so much value in BallerTV’s products. For each new game that they record, more players, coaches, and scouts sign up so that they can get access to BallerTV’s fast-growing lineup of games. It’s so valuable that future Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade recently joined as brand ambassador for BallerTV.
When an investment opportunity gets to the finish line, I always do a gut check and ask myself, “Would I want to work here as a full-time employee?” In this case the answer was a clear “yes!” due to a constellation of factors. They have a small yet deeply committed team led by two co-founders with abilities in both execution and vision, a fast growing customer base that finds emotional value in the product they provide, and an increasingly large market that serves the greater good of helping kids grow up to be healthy, well-rounded adults. A company like this needs to exist and I’m very happy to be a part of it along the way.
To those of you looking for a great company to join down in LA, BallerTV is hiring!