When it comes to media coverage, football, baseball and basketball usually get most of the attention. But lower profile sports also have die-hard fans, and they’re willing to pay to watch video of their events.
That’s what brothers Martin and Mark Floreani, who were college athletes in wrestling and track, are proving with their digital sports media company Flocasts.
Seven years ago, Martin Floreani, who wrestled for California Polytechnic State University, and Mark Floreani, a former University of Texas track athlete, came up with the idea of creating an online forum for often overlooked sports.
Using $10,000 raised from a friend, they bought a used van and began a three-month road trip, shooting videos of all things wrestling — from interviews with athletes and coaches to footage of practices and tournaments. Their friend Madhu Venkatesan built a website, flocasts.com, where they posted the footage.
Fans loved it, and what started as a side project has grown into a company.
Today, Flocasts focuses on four sports − wrestling, track and field, gymnastics and cycling — with real-time video of high school, college and professional events and interviews with athletes and coaches. This year, the company will post more than 60,000 videos on the site. The videos attract about 5 million visitors a month.
Users pay $12.50 to $20 monthly or $150 annually for premium subscriptions. The company also generates revenue from advertisers, which include Saucony, Brooks, New Balance and Adidas.
“To be truly a fan, you need to be able to watch the sports you’re passionate about, and we make that possible,” Martin Floreani said. “We’re providing energetic fans with content that they couldn’t see otherwise, and the response has been incredible.”
In the past year, Flocasts, which is self-funded, has made two acquisitions — MileSplit, a Florida-based website for national high school track and field and WVS, an Iowa-based online streaming production company.
In August, the company built out its management team by hiring David Weiss, formerly of ESPN and USA Today Sports, as senior vice president of multimedia sales; and Phil Wendler, also formerly of ESPN and USA Today Sports, as vice president of multimedia sales. They’re charged with helping Flocasts expand its advertising to include beverage, apparel, personal care and automotive companies. Future plans include adding new sports to Flocasts’ roster.
Now the 31-person company is preparing to triple its office space by moving to a new headquarters in East Austin. The 7,500-square foot space at Cesar Chavez and Pleasant Valley Road will include a video production studio, a full kitchen and bar area and a workout room. The company is currently hiring UI/UX programmers and content producers.
Flocasts is profitable, and revenue this year will be up 80 percent to $5.5 million in 2013, Martin Floreani said, adding that the company has no plans to raise venture capital.
“There’s no need to give up the equity when we’re able to aggressively grow and we’re not cash strapped,” he said.
In addition to paying subscribers, Flocasts’ growth is being driven by its partnerships with major sports brands.
In June, headphone maker Flips Audio teamed with Flocats to promote Flips Wrestling, its headphones targeted at wrestlers and other athletes. When Flocasts livestreams major tournaments, the commentators wear Flips Wrestling headphones, talk about them and Tweet about them. In addition, Flip runs 30-second video ads at the beginning of the site’s wrestling shows.
“They’re the ESPN of the wrestling community, and their commentators are almost celebrities themselves in these niche communities,” said Don Beshada, managing member of Flips Wrestling. “For us, Flocasts was the perfect way to reach wrestlers, because you can’t watch the the top tournaments on TV, you can only watch it on Flocasts.”
For athletes, the site is a way to connect with fans they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach, said runner Nick Symmonds, a silver medalist at the World Track & Field Championships.
“We don’t get a lot of media coverage, so for track and field, it’s huge,” Symmonds said. “It helps you create a brand and build name recognition and a fanbase. We work hard to help them create new content because we understand if we help them out, they help our sport.”