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Overtime CEO Dan Porter on Recode Media with Peter Kafka podcast interview

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Overtime CEO Dan Porter does not want you to go to Overtime’s website.“When I go and meet with a billion-dollar media company, and the CEO of that company starts out the conversation and says, ‘I went to your website,’ I think, ‘Our website?’” Porter said on the latest episode of Recode Media. And Porter is convinced that the conventional wisdom in today’s media industry — that it’s too risky to build a new business on top of a platform like Instagram or Snapchat — is wrong.“I think it’s just silly,” he told Recode’s Peter Kafka. I just think that the way that people think about that is highly limited.”A serial entrepreneur who previously sold OMGPOP (the company that made the game Draw Something) to Zynga, Porter said it’s a mistake to think you can “own” your audience by trying to shuttle them to a website “that nobody knows and nobody can find.” And that’s true even if you’re effectively using social media to drive that traffic.“[It’s a mistake to think] ‘social media is amazing. We don’t focus on right space content, so we are trying to build something that is truly global and a distributed sports network, meaning we’re on every platform you can imagine, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, TikTok, anywhere that we can be, and we are specifically geared towards kind of the generation Z audience, or the audience that has fallen off from watching traditional live sports, which is the way that I grew up.And what you’re also focused on, at least you were a year ago when I was spending time looking at you, was high school sports and high school athletes. I knew or had an instinct from running the digital talent business at WME, which is a global talent agency, that part of the reason all these YouTube stars were so popular is that people like to watch young people who are like them, who they feel they can relate to and aspire to with less distance between them then there is between them and, let’s say, LeBron James, and those people typically are 17, 18 years old. So if you sent me an amazing dunk and said, “You should post this.” I most likely would say, “Nobody knows who you are.” It’s not about the highlight, it’s about the ongoing story. Correct, I don’t make the rules around eligibility and NCAA, but yes, and I think many people feel that they should be paid. We have various people who publish for us and they see it and they’re like, “Wow, that’s an incredible play,” and it’s on the internet in one second. So I get the appeal of why you would want to distribute this stuff broadly, but a couple of years ago I was like, “Yes, you must distribute all your stuff broadly on all the social networks and YouTube,” etc., and now everyone says, “Well, but you don’t actually make money there and there’s lots of problems there and you don’t control that and they’re not actually in the business of helping their media partners, necessarily.” So how does that work for you guys as a business?Right. And so there’s this perception of media which is, I make this thing — it’s a video, it’s a podcast, it’s something else — I push it out there and then people that I don’t know sit out there and watch it and then they move on to consume the next thing. I watch you guys all the time.” We sent them a T-shirt and a sweatshirt and that person sent me an email today and said, “My son has not taken off this sweatshirt since you sent it to him.” I don’t think that that person would’ve felt the same way if you sent them a sweatshirt from five other media companies that I could name because those people focus on pushing content out, they don’t focus on building community. Then you can call something a trend.Yeah.So partly because it’s selection bias, right, I’m looking at them, but I’m thinking of you, The Athletic subscription sport site, and now what is Action Network, which is gambling. Is there something thematic about sports do you think that’s interesting to investors now or that’s just randomly three different companies that have seemed appealing?Well, I would say in terms of gaming, which is the euphemism for betting, sure. We found some investors who like the market dynamics, but I would say ...Oh, by the way, if you watch a Golden State Warriors game in the front row is full of dudes who ...Sure, right, Ben Horowitz, my investor.... presumably like sports.Yes.Right, there you go.So there are people, and that’s why they’re one of our investors. And so, I was seeing in 2013, 2014, that various clients, leagues, other people were pointing out, they were coming to us and saying, “Wow, can we work with your digital talent to re-engage kids in sports and live sports?” And that’s a whole other podcast discussion. There are a million different things, but the fact is that it’s true and the joke is that parents would say, “Well, my kid will never have a TV in their room growing up.” And of course, they have a phone and a computer and multiple screens. He’s like, “Oh, I know this old guy who wants to build a company around sports and I know this young guy who had started a sports company in college.” And he introduced us and we just had a lot of chemistry around our shared vision.So, he was how old when you met him? And you say, “I have a cool idea, but I’m too old to make a sports thing aimed at ...” They’re not even millennials, right? it’s funny because there’s a segment of investors, a couple particularly in lower Manhattan, who said to my face, “I will not invest in your company because young people are watching the content and you’re old.” And these were genius investors who themselves had never actually started anything but said that to me.But I understood their ageist point and the fact that they completely misunderestimated me. I have massive expectations and that’s why I’m going to raise a ton of money quickly,” the way you would have done five or 10 years ago.Well, I feel like we did both, in a way. I’ve understood for a while that the desire to watch people who are far better than you compete at playing these games is a meaningful desire and that our audience isn’t like, “Well, that’s on a keyboard and that’s on a field, so one is true and one is false.” They enjoy it and it’s sports. The fact is that you could drop me in front of two of the best teams in the world and if I don’t know anyone on that team, I would rather watch my 6-year-old’s soccer game because at least I know him and I love him and I want to see him play. Just like, they watch these other kids and they think, “I might be on Overtime.” And in fact, they might be on Overtime. I come back to the idea of community and I come back to this emotional feeling of what it means to be a young person and participate and see people like you and think you might be on Overtime. They send messages like, “I just want to let you know that in 2019, I’m going to be on Overtime.” And I say, “Great.” That aspect of it, it is just different. When people are like, “Media companies aren’t doing well,” I’m like, “Media companies that are involved in the hearts and minds of kids, that’re tapping the dreams that celebrate all those, those are gonna do great.” People who throw up a couple blog posts about the news or about technology, yeah, they’re screwed, but that’s not what we’re doing. Hi, Jim. We’re clear that this thing that I was hoping for a bunch of years, because I have kids now, that the ELEAGUEs and gaming was gonna be a trend.You’re hoping it’s gonna disappear...We’re stuck with it, right?We’re definitely stuck with it. The truth is, my kids view watching other people play a video game as legitimate or, frankly, more interesting than watching real sports.Why is watching somebody run up and down the field and get a concussion ...I get intellectually why that’s the case, but the point is, we don’t think this is a blip, or the equivalent of a Fortnite dance that comes and goes.I don’t think so. I will say that most people tend to watch games that they play, versus, “I don’t play football, but I watch football,” they tend to watch games that they play because they want to see people who are really good, because they want to learn how to get better.They’re gonna age with it, so when they’re 35 they’re on their couch watching whoever Ninja is on Fortnite.Yes. My son played in a gaming tournament. There was Bobby Fischer back when we had literally nothing else to watch.Parents aren’t throwing up their arms saying 90,000 people are watching a live chess match on Twitch, which they are for some chess matches, it’s just, that’s considered ... It’s less like, “This is a pure arms race of my 1,000 lines of code versus your 5,000 lines of code,” and it’s more about all the other attributes around the business because it’s not like everyone’s at the party and nothing has ever been built anymore.So we’re in this world where there’s lots of like, “We can’t build media companies on the back of Facebook or Google anymore, it’s too fraught.” You build on someone else’s platform, you can’t control it. That’s now the new conventional wisdom for media, right?Yes.But there’s this direct-to-consumer thing you just talked about, which is everyone is building a retail business on Instagram. I just think that the way that people think about that is highly limited.If I go and I put on an Overtime t-shirt and I walk down the street here and some kid looks at me and says, “Yo, shout-out to Overtime,” I think I own a relationship with that kid, whether I’m distributing it on a Samsung TV, on Instagram, on the Apple podcast app, anything else like that.And you’re not worried about one day Instagram turning around and saying, “We’re gonna impose some limits, etc. I’m gonna go there, and I’m gonna use social media to drive everyone to said website, because my investor said I need a website because I need to own my audience,” versus, “I’m happy for them to come and engage with us on Discord, on Instagram, anywhere that they wanna engage with us.”I don’t think of social media as a conduit to drive you to some place, and I can tell the difference when I go and meet with a billion-dollar media company, and the CEO of that company starts out the conversation and says, “I went to your website,” and I think, “Our website?” I don’t even know what’s ... Anything else like that.” It’s just the way that people consume media.This is not your first time around building companies, three, four, five of these. The kids in the game were like, “I didn’t really do anything epic in that game.” The parents didn’t want to watch it, and then I would have one video of Zion Williamson and it would do more views than all 100 schools combined. I was like, “We’re being very literal about this,” and we just scrapped that whole thing.Second is like, “I need to have an app where people go.” I started an Instagram account as a way to promote the app, and the Instagram account had massive engagement, blew up and built our whole community, and I thought, “That’s way more valuable than trying to support ...”Were you better at figuring out your screw-ups and moving on to the next thing than you would have been that number of years ago? Like, “I’ve seen this, I know when this is broken and this thing’s working, do not drop that thing.” Or are you still a regular human and you still want to make the first thing work because that was the original idea?I think that I don’t know if I’m better, but it’s less devastating. When we started out covering football, we filmed football games and chopped up highlights, and it turned out that what people wanted to see was like the day in the life with all of these great kids, and we’d get 2,000 views of a game with like three touchdowns and half a million views of hanging out for 20 minutes with a kid who’s gonna be in the NFL in two or three years. Of course, today Steven Spielberg is like, “Streaming services shouldn’t be able to compete for the Oscars.” They are people who’ve done the same thing for 30 years who don’t see the writing, but there’s a whole crop of young people who are also subscribers to Netflix and users of Instagram and viewers of YouTube, and they understand. I think part of them are ready, in that they’re just ready to sell more to more people, but there are other things where some people don’t like making stuff that’s not 22 minutes. No kid in America is like, “I love watching David Dobrik’s vlogs, or all of this other stuff, I just wish it were premium and shot in 1080p, with a million dollar ...” This is directed at Jeffrey Katzenberg.It is directed at lots of people who are trying to do that.But that’s one of the people.That is possible, that’s true. For me, I’m really interested in figuring out what the problems of my user, my consumer, my community members are, and building from that, rather than kind of surveying the landscape and saying, “With all our Hollywood knowledge, this stuff is great, watching a vlog is amazing,” but what they really want is premium content and short-forming. By the way, there’s already short-form content on Netflix, you can watch The End of the F***ing World and the episodes are 18 minutes long.I believe Vox Media has some 15 to 20 minute ...Yes, I watch some of those, they’re great.They’re very good. Those people aren’t like, “If I could only watch someone study in HD,” and they spend $50,000 a minute to make that.

As said here by Eric Johnson