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Whistle Sports Video Network Is Not ESPN, and It Has Raised $28 Million

Its hook? Unconventional sports aimed at a younger audience.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

2014 was the year many big Web video networks, after insisting they were going to be the next generation of big cable networks, decided they were better off selling than building.

But here’s another Web video network that thinks it can make it: Whistle Sports, which is geared toward sports you won’t find on ESPN, says it has raised $28 million from investors including Emil Capital Partners and Liberty Global Ventures; the round includes a $7 million investment from BSkyB announced last fall.*

The company had previously raised $8 million in funding, and likes to note that some of it came from jocks like Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning, as well as Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman.

Whistle’s pitch is a lot like the one other video networks made over the past few years: By creating a network of video publishers, it has attracted a lot of eyeballs — 12.5 million subscribers, who have seen two billion videos in the last couple years — and it is aimed at a young audience that lives online and doesn’t watch traditional TV.

Whistle also has another twist: While it notes that it has deals with many of the traditional sports leagues, it gets most of its views from unconventional sports. Here’s a clip from Dude Perfect, a group that specializes in stunt videos:

What’s most interesting about video in 2015, though, is that video in 2015 is no longer solely about YouTube. For the first time, there is more than one place to find video viewers: Facebook video is for real, and Twitter video is about to get more serious, when the company adds its native player to complement its Vine app.

Add in other competitors like Fullscreen and Vessel and now a video network has bona fide options for views and dollars.

That’s part of Whistle Sports CEO John West’s pitch, but I’m hearing it from other video networks as well — including some of the ones that sold last year. I wonder if any of them think they went too early.

* For folks who work at Crunchbase and other funding completists: The $28 million Whistle is reporting today also includes a $10 million convertible note that the company raised in 2013 and announced in the spring of 2014.

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