Whistle Sports Put Its Millennial Spin On Soccer

Entertainment and information comes at us so quickly now that where and what you watch seems to be a blur. Our excitement comes and goes in quick bits and pieces which would seem to be a good atmosphere for Whistle Sports Network, a collection of sports-related content channels you can find on YouTube and follow on social media.

This is not the place you’d first turn to get a sports score, but it’s a kind of go-to place for people--young people especially. It's into  sports in a more free form way than ESPN ever was with the major exception of its X Games brainstorm, way back in 1995, that spawned an entire new genre of participation Whistle seems to identify with on some level.

Whistle’s a pretty perfect partner for Sky Sports whose Soccer AM brand is the spine of a new Whistle related channel. It engages millennials with soccer-like stuff. But it's far more entertaining than a panel show of sports experts reporting scores and highlights.



An introductory video just put on YouTube gives a good whiff of what the Whistle collaboration with Sky might be like as it  goes forward. But so does an older Whistle video that compares Football to Futbol with some alarmingly wicked conclusions.

Separately, Whistle Sports is putting together seven series that will show up on Verizon’s new Go90 service--a series in this case defined as 10, five-minute episodes that are aimed at a young, unstuffy and (I’d say) un-team focused sports attitude. Because 70% of Whistle’s social media views come from mobile devices, they seem to belong on that new mobile-first service.

John West, the co-founder and CEO of Whistle Sports, says it got its name because its young viewers associated a whistle as an instrument that gives those viewers control--if they blow the whistle, they dictate the “play.”

This kind of hands-on feel at Whistle seems to go in tricky directions. West and Brian Selander, the executive vice president, can quote impressive stats about how much young viewers don’t watch sports--for example, there was a 16% decrease in viewing of traditional sports on TV among millennials from 2010-2012. 

But that’s a good thing because, as they see it, younger people are more involved in the lifestyle periphery of sports, the social aspect of sports and the just-do-it possibilities that team sports reserves for just a few of the prime specimens.

And, so these younger people  are involved in sports on their own terms. Whistle stars like the Team Flight Brothers are expert basketball dunkers; Dude Perfect are uncannily accurate trick shot artists. So if a lot of Whistle subscribers spend all day inside watching sport-like stuff on Whistle, another bunch is outside working on trick shots or soccer tricks like the “sombrero backwards.”  

Says West, “You don’t have to be 6-feet tall” to participate in some of the socially-oriented pursuits that are popular videos at Whistle. 

This must have struck a nerve with people who are athletes, though. Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning and Jeremy Lin invested in Whistle, and so have television types famed for figuring out what young viewers want, the former MTV deep thinker Bob Pittman and Nickelodeon's once-prime mover, Geraldine Laybourne.  Sky’s parent, BSkyB, part of the Murdoch empire, which dumped $7 million in the Whistle piggy bank last year. More than 200 YouTube channels and major social followings, plus a new worldwide push with soccer, makes Whistle the most unlikely of sports sites.

It seems to be winning the game it’s playing.

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