An upstart basketball league, one built on millions of internet followers and on paying high-school-age players professional wages, begins its inaugural season today. And the leadership of Overtime Elite, which will showcase top players from age 16 to 18, is already eyeing ways to expand, including the possibility of striking a traditional media rights deal.
That’s according to Overtime CEO and founder Dan Porter. The longtime entrepreneur, who founded the parent sports media company in 2016 and quickly built a massive social media audience (now more than 5 million Instagram followers) for its menu of highlights and interviews featuring teenage stars, said a media deal is not an immediate goal, but he hopes an agreement is in place within “three or four” years.
“We want to develop an audience that’s global in nature,” Porter told Sportico earlier this month. “One that’s big in Europe, and eventually in Asia, and not just North American-focused.”
Porter stopped short of saying what the ideal TV package would be like, but opening that door is interesting given that OTE’s target audience, in the 18-34 demographic, faded away from traditional TV years ago. Regardless, any future deals will depend on how the league grows coming out of the gate.
Overtime, backed by high-profile investors including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and music superstar Drake, is banking on consumers wanting to follow teenage pro basketball players on their journeys to the NBA. The Atlanta-based league promises original programming to bring viewers close to the action, on and off the court, drawing not only fans but corporate partners and sponsors.
“We have to create a league and product that people care about,” Porter said.
OTE, which recently completed its 103,000-square-foot training and playing facility, has already announced founding partners like State Farm and Gatorade. Topps also partnered with OTE as it makes its way back into basketball trading cards. OTE will derive revenue from brand relationships in sponsorship, retail and ecommerce, with bigger picture streams likely being in group licensing and media rights deals.
The league is paying teen players a minimum of $100,000 per season, plus health insurance and equity stakes. It’s launching in the dawn of the NCAA’s new NIL era and just as other alternatives to college sports become more popular, like G-League Ignite, the NBA’s development arm that also offers young prospects salaries.
Porter is bullish on what OTE offers, calling the league a vanguard for empowering young athletes, but he remains patient on financial results. Overtime stakeholders understand the long-term strategy and aren’t looking for a quick return, he says.
He pointed out that the most powerful sports leagues didn’t flourish overnight. “You don’t get to build that in one year,” Porter added. “You have to look at it in a holistic way.”