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Super Bowl 2021: Gen Z won't watch the entire game, says Overtime Sports co-founder

·4 min read

If the past is any indication, more than 100 million viewers are likely to tune in, when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl this Sunday.

Just don’t expect younger football fans to stick around for the entire game.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance Live, Overtime Sports co-founder and President Zack Weiner said shifting viewing habits of Generation Z, people born after 1996, are dramatically altering the way sports and entertainment are consumed. And the Super Bowl is no exception.

“They don’t really want to watch a three and a half hour live game,” Weiner said. “It has to be quick hitting, it has to really engage with them, and it can't be the type of product that they have to sit around for three hours and wait to watch.”

A digital native platform aimed at the next generation of sports fans, Overtime has seen explosive growth over the past year. It more than doubled its follower base to 45 million in 2020, while growing its content views from 10 billion to roughly 18.5 billion, year-over-year, according to company data. It’s quickly attracted a key demographic, under 35, by “talking in the voice of Gen Z and Millennials,” and taking a starkly different path from traditional sports media outlets. That’s meant short form content and highlight reels produced for YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, instead of shelling out billions for the media rights to broadcast games themselves.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - FEBRUARY 03:  The T-Mobile Center is decorated with a banner in support of the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of Super Bowl LV on February 03, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - FEBRUARY 03: The T-Mobile Center is decorated with a banner in support of the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of Super Bowl LV on February 03, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“I look at a lot of the legacy sports media companies that have struggled to reach this demographic and I don't blame them. The average person, watching the legacy company is a 55 year old, a 50 year old, and they have to cater to that audience,” Weiner said. “We can use [younger] language and we can say things that maybe the older demographic wouldn't really understand. A word like, ‘Oh, that's my slime’ meaning, that's my friend, that's my guy.”

Television ratings for live professional sports, including the NBA and MLB have slipped across the board. Viewership for the NFL fell 8% for 2020 regular season games.

While the Super Bowl traditionally attracts a much larger audience, Weiner said Overtime won’t be as focused on the game itself, but on the storylines of athletes, off the field. He doesn’t expect the platform’s followers to be engaged during all three to four hours of the game, even with a half-time show headlined by The Weekend, sandwiched in between.

“We'll be all over on social media on Twitter (TWTR), on Instagram, on TikTok, capturing a lot of those off the field moments that are really important for our audience,” Weiner said.

Founded in 2016, the platform is backed by $35 million in funding from athletes like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, along with Andreessen Horowitz and Greycroft Ventures, among other VCs.

While it first gained popularity for its high school game highlights and sports videos shared on social media, Overtime now boasts the largest sports account on TikTok, with nearly 15 million followers.

In recent years, the platform has extended its content beyond the games, to include more than 40 original series. Reality show “Primetime 2.0” documents NFL Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders and his relationship with his son, while “Fear Nothing” follows top basketball recruit, 16-year-old Mikey Williams, in his pursuit to play in the NBA. Overtime also sells merchandise and organizes live sporting events, in partnership with brands like Converse.

A semi-professional sports league may be in the works next. The company is reportedly looking to launch a basketball league that will pay top high school recruits in the country. Weiner said the company “didn’t have anything to report” on the rumors, but added that it is always looking for opportunities to give athletes “more exposure” and eventually help them monetize their individual brand.

“We don't just view ourselves as a content company. Content is a way that we interact with advertisers in a way that they can reach our audience. It's a way that we organically grow our brand,” Weiner said. “But we look at ourselves as a holistic brand that can provide products and experience as well.”

Akiko Fujita is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita

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