On Sunday, the Oakland Raiders beat the Chicago Bears at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in the first of four NFL games that will happen in London this season. And on Monday, the league announced some tech news out of London: OverTier, a streaming company headquartered there, will now run the tech for the NFL’s over-the-top (OTT) service Game Pass in 181 countries including Brazil, India, Israel, Japan, and Mexico.
It is the kind of back-end tech deal that most sports fans won’t see or read about, but it is significant for the future of the sports broadcasting business. (To understand what OverTier does, think of BAM Tech, the MLB video arm that Disney bought in 2017.) There are dozens of OTT providers across the world, and they would all love to be in business with the NFL.
OverTier, created in 2017, is a joint venture of British advertising giant WPP and Bruin Sports Capital, the sports VC firm led by George Pyne, a former COO of Nascar and president of sports agency IMG. OverTier already had the rights to Game Pass in Europe since 2017, but this new deal greatly expands its global reach and its relationship with the NFL.
In some countries, OverTier now replaces the previous Game Pass tech provider, DAZN Group. In other countries, it replaces NeuLion, which Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor bought last year and rebranded to Endeavor Streaming.
That would appear to be a blow to those two players. But DAZN says it chose not to bid for the new contract in those countries, as it looks to focus more on its consumer-facing product than business-to-business deals. DAZN Group (formerly called Perform Group), headquartered in London, launched in America one year ago and has made its pitch with boxing and MMA fights. The company is owned by Ukrainian-born British billionaire Len Blavatnik, hired former ESPN president John Skipper as its U.S. chairman and launched a baseball show co-hosted by former ESPN talent.
NFL Game Pass is the league’s premium subscription service that offers all live NFL Games plus Red Zone and NFL Network. DAZN still has the rights to NFL Game Pass in Canada.
There are now only three countries where OverTier does not have the NFL Game Pass rights: Canada (DAZN), China (Tencent), and the U.S., where Game Pass does not offer live-streaming of games.
George Pyne left IMG in 2014 and launched Bruin in 2015 with $250 million of starting capital from WPP, Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, and other investors. In the time since, Bruin bought the marketing firm Engine Shop, branding firm Soulsight, Italian sports streaming platform Deltatre, and took a stake in the sports VC firm Courtside Ventures, among other investments.
OverTier’s tech is powered by Deltatre, while OverTier’s value proposition is data and analytics that yield insights about NFL viewership abroad. (For example: the most-watched NFL team in Vatican City is the Pittsburgh Steelers.)
In his latest career act as a venture capitalist, Pyne is all in on OTT businesses. “The money is still in old media, but there’s a whole generation that’s not really tuning in to old media,” he told Yahoo Finance in May. “So if you’re not on all screens, and if you’re not in short-form content, that’s going to be a problem in terms of developing future fans, and even in ticket-selling. So while the money still makes you think more of old media, the realities of engaging consumers and selling tickets has got to take you to new media.”
George Pyne of Bruin Sports Capital will speak on stage at our next Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit on Oct. 10 in New York.
NOTE: This story was updated to include a response from DAZN, sent after the company initially declined comment.
Daniel Roberts is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance and closely covers streaming tech. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.