Niche Sports Streaming Service Expands While Giants Retrench

FloSports Inc., an Austin, Texas-based sports-streaming company, announced Tuesday that it acquired the North American online rights for cycling events held by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body of the sport.

UCI events include world-famous road-cycling races such as the Giro d’Italia, as well as events like BMX and mountain-biking championships. FloSports already had Canadian rights to the Tour de France, the world’s premier cycling event, which isn’t part of UCI.

Terms of the rights deal weren’t disclosed.

Powered by diehard wrestling, cycling and racing fans, FloSports has nearly 500,000 subscribers across more than 25 channels, according to the company. Its cycling channel, FloBikes, saw year-over-year subscriber growth of 122% between last December and this month, even as many sports were shuttered for months on end due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

That growth comes with some large traditional players in retreat.

Sports-media giants like Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN have been eliminating jobs and losing subscribers in 2020, while Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. wrote down the value of its regional sports networks by $4.2 billion just a year after paying $9.6 billion to acquire them.

Niche Sports Streaming Service Expands While Giants Retrench

“That sort of speaks to our model, that we’re able to continue to see growth,” said David Weiss, FloSports’ senior vice president for global rights acquisition. “Our model is that we go really deep into sports that otherwise don’t get that coverage.”

Focusing on sports that are largely off the radar of ESPN and Fox Corp. allows FloSports to acquire rights for a fraction of what the giants pay for major sports like football or soccer.

And FloSports sees another advantage in having a head start in the over-the-top market that its larger competitors have only recently ramped up their focus on.

“We were born as a digital entity,” said Weiss. “We had a running start on everyone else that’s moved to OTT.”

Founded in 2006 by brothers Mark and Martin Floreani, FloSports began with the idea that there was an audience for the Olympic sports the brothers competed in while in college: Mark was a track star at the University of Texas at Austin, while Martin wrestled at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Of course, any success FloSports finds in elevating previously ignored sports to something closer to the mainstream could potentially draw the attention of the ESPNs of the world and threaten to raise future rights fees.

“That would be a really good problem for us to have,” said Weiss. “Bring it on.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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