Brady, Strahan and Chopra Sports Media Venture Raises $10 Million

Religion of Sports Media has produced series for Apple, Facebook and Showtime

Michael Strahan, left, and Tom Brady, center, pictured after the Super Bowl in 2017 with head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. Mr. Strahan and Mr. Brady are two of the co-founders of Religion of Sports Media Inc.

Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

2020欧洲杯APPReligion of Sports Media Inc., a media venture co-founded by NFL legends Tom Brady and Michael Strahan and filmmaker Gotham Chopra, has raised $10 million to produce more video and audio content, including content it plans to finance on its own.

The company, which has produced sports documentaries for Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and ViacomCBS Inc.’s Showtime, among others, said it wants to build a full-fledged video and audio media business, create new revenue streams and expand internationally.

The funding comes at a time when athletes are getting more involved in content businesses and using a range of platforms to speak directly with fans. Religion of Sports executives said they are expanding their network of athletes and filmmakers to work with on projects, some of which the company will finance by itself.

Founded in 2016, Religion of Sports is best known for sports documentaries on famous athletes and the impact of sports on fans and culture. Its Facebook Watch show “Tom vs. Time” focused on Mr. Brady’s quest to play well into his 40s. “Shut Up and Dribble,” a miniseries for Showtime, examined attempts by NBA players to bring about social change and speak up politically.

With the new capital, Los Angeles-based Religion of Sports will produce more content of different lengths and in different formats, said Ameeth Sankaran, chief executive. While selling and producing projects for outside distribution partners will remain a part of the company’s business plan, it also intends to self-finance projects so it can own more of the underlying rights and create additional revenue streams through content licensing, merchandising and other means, he added.

“It would allow us to have more control of our destiny,” Mr. Sankaran said.

2020欧洲杯APPThe $10 million Series A round is backed by Elysian Park, LinkinFirm and existing investors Courtside Ventures and media mogul Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital. Religion of Sports, which previously raised $3 million in seed money, declined to disclose a valuation.

The company is trying to expand at a tough time for the media business. Big digital publishers have struggled to turn a profit for years, and this year both online media and traditional TV businesses have suffered as the coronavirus pandemic throttled ad spending and shut down Hollywood productions.

2020欧洲杯APPReligion of Sports, however, isn’t an ad-supported media company, outside of content it might produce with a brand, its executives said. Religion of Sports is also looking to sell content just as streaming services are spending billions of dollars to expand their offerings. That made the company an attractive reinvestment bet, said Deepen Parikh, a partner at Courtside Ventures.

The access Mr. Brady, Mr. Strahan and Mr. Chopra have to athletes and filmmakers also helps, said Ms. Redstone. “They have the trust of the people they work with,” she said. “It’s hard for people to build that kind of trust.”

Athletes have become more active in content businesses in recent years through media and entertainment companies such as The Players’ Tribune, which was founded by Derek Jeter, and Uninterrupted, co-founded by LeBron James. Religion of Sports co-produced “Shut Up and Dribble” and another series, “Greatness Code,” for Apple TV+, with Uninterrupted.

“I’ve been the subject of many docs—and Tom has as well,” said Mr. Strahan. “It’s a different feeling to be on the other side and have more control of the narrative.”

Religion of Sports’ co-founders and executives said they would seek to differentiate their content by having an editorial voice on the cultural effects of sports and athletes and by avoiding the familiar reality-TV format of only following a famous athlete around. An upcoming project with the NFL, for example, will focus on what athletes learned from failure.

2020欧洲杯APPMr. Chopra said the editorial focus for Religion of Sports is inspired by projects he did with Indian cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar for ESPN’s award-winning “30 for 30” documentary series and with the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant. “I saw what these respective athletes on different sides of the planet meant to the places from which they came,” he said. “Sports is religion and sports is about community.”

Write to Sahil Patel at sahil.patel@kinofilmz.com

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