Fubo Sports Network’s Pamela Duckworth Says Giving Athletes a Voice Helps Drive Growth
Fubo Sports Network launched in late 2019 and considering how quickly thereafter the COVID-19 pandemic upended everything, the network has been a case study in learning how to pivot, gain traction in an environment that went without live sports for a crucial period in the life of a startup. In fact, it’s on the rise compared to 2021 thanks to a number of innovative efforts.
“Year-over-year we have had a 75% increase in viewership, and we are extremely pleased with that,” says Pamela Duckworth, head of Fubo Sports Network and Original Programming.
It’s all part of a big leap in growth overall for fuboTV which yesterday reported annual revenue of $638 million total revenue in 2021, including $1 million impact of the December 2021 acquisition of Molotov. Excluding Molotov, fuboTV’s total annual revenue was $637 million, an increase of 144% over 2020. The company closed 2021 with 1.13 million total paid subscribers, up 106% from the prior year. fuboTV added 185,000 net subscribers in the fourth quarter.
On the sports side, key drivers were exclusive sports content like the CONMEBOL South American Qatar World Cup 2022 Qualifiers which saw Fubo ramp up shoulder programming in two languages: English and Spanish. All told 112 hours of content (including games) was created and delivered to fans.
“When we took on doing all the shoulder programming in both English and Spanish simultaneously it was a pretty big undertaking,” says Duckworth. “We were based at Mediapro in Miami and literally did both shows next door to each other so I could walk from the English control room, throw open the door, and walk into the Spanish control room. It was pretty interesting to have 75 people working on those and also cool that our company could pull it off as a smaller player.”
On February 18 Fubo also launched the PFL Challenger Series, a new MMA fight series from the Professional Fight League. The PFL also has a deal with ESPN, but the Challenger Series is fuboTV’s alone and PFL says it is now the number two MMA company globally. The PFL Challenger Series action returns to Universal Studios on February 25, with the welterweight division matchups. Recent PFL signing Jarrah Al-Silawi will make his highly anticipated PFL debut, headlining the main event when he takes on Michael Lilly.
“We are working hand in hand with PFL, and it has been a really fun ride,” says Duckworth. “And Julie Stewart-Binks, who hosts Drinks with Binks on our network, is going to be one of the hosts for the eight-week PFL series.”
Finding the Athlete’s Voice
As Fubo Sports Network continues to expand the team is focusing not only on live sports but also being a place where the voice of the athlete is seen and heard.
“We’re stepping up our podcasts in the NFL space and we also launched No Chill with Gilbert Arenas which is our number one show and doing extremely well,” says Duckworth. “We also signed up Lights Out Xtreme Fighting, founded by Shawne Merriman where we’ve done three live events and hope to pick those up at the end of March and April.”
Fubo Sports Network has been able to turn YouTube into its second highest monetization tool as it ended 2021 with 41.1 million views and 6.8 million unique viewers (a triple-digit increase year over year). The success Gilbert Arenas found there gave the Fubo team the comfort level to do even more podcasts and lean into giving athletes a voice.
“We can give these guys a platform where you can see other sides of them,” says Duckworth. “Gilbert cannot only break down the game that was on last night but also historical stuff and what used to happen when he was playing. So, we like to think Fubo helps these guys and girls show people they are deeper than just what you see on the field.”
When the pandemic began Fubo, like nearly every sports content creator and distributor, had to pivot quickly.
“We literally just turned everything around and sent equipment out to everyone so we could continue with all of the originals,” says Duckworth. “And now we’re looking to build out new studios in New York. We don’t have an exact timeline, but we already have plans for the buildout.”
Fubotv is also leaning more into gaming and betting as Fubo Sportsbook is live in two states, Arizona and Iowa and the company is looking to expand into more states soon.
“The coolest part about the Fubo Sports Network is that it’s almost like it’s a test market where we can test shows and integrate our sports book as well as our free to play games. We can literally do a special show and integrate free to play and then see the interactivity that happens for show.”
And from a content creation standpoint Duckworth says documentaries and scripted programming is also in the works.
“It’s amazing how many pitch meetings we are taking, even as the underdog and just being a smaller player,” she adds. “But people are saying they would like to work with us.”
Within North America, the company forecasts first quarter 2022 revenue of $232 million-$237 million and full year 2022 revenue of $1.08 billion-$1.09 billion, which projects achieving the billion dollar mark for the first time. North America subscribers are expected to reach 1.028 million-1.033 million in the first quarter of 2022 and 1.500 million-1.510 million for the full year.
“fuboTV delivered a record fourth quarter and full year across a number of our key financial and operational metrics,” said David Gandler, co-founder and CEO, fuboTV in the earnings announcement. “Engagement continues to be strong as we add differentiated content to our offering and focus on innovating our product to meet consumer preferences and drive a premium experience. Our expansion into real-money wagering is underway with the launch of Fubo Sportsbook across two states with additional states expected to follow this year. This launch represents a differentiated and industry-first integration of streaming and a sports wagering product and we see ourselves in the very early innings of a massive opportunity.”