The Post sat down with Ben Sherwood, a former senior Disney TV exec and president of ABC News, and TeamSnap CEO Peter Frintzilas to talk about the youth sports market.
Ben Sherwood, a former senior Disney TV exec and president of ABC News, has drawn inspiration from his sons’ sports teams for his next big media venture. He founded Mojo Sports, an app and tech platform that broadcasts youth sports games in 2019 and sold it to the sports management platform TeamSnap on Dec. 14.
The Post sat down with Sherwood and TeamSnap CEO Peter Frintzilas to talk about the youth sports market, which is expected to balloon to $70 billion by 2030.
Q: How did you get into the youth sports industry?
Ben Sherwood: While working at Disney, I coached my two sons in four different sports. I didn’t know much about coaching and I searched far and wide for the best resources and tools. I even spent a lot of money on a famous Dutch youth soccer program with around 20 DVDs and a big notebook of Xs and Os but my team of 5-year-olds didn’t respond very well to such an advanced system.
Former Disney TV exec Ben Sherwood coaching his son Will. Karen Sherwood
When I left Disney in 2019, I thought there was a wide-open opportunity to build a consumer tech and media platform for 500 million to 700 million families around the world that love youth sports and want the best experiences for their kids. With my co-founder and partner Reed Shaffner, an innovative tech and product leader, we tried to sprinkle some Disney-style magic on youth sports with world-class consumer technology.
Q: What is the age range for the sports and which sports are the most popular on your platform? Do you feature both boys’ and girls’ teams?
Peter Frintzilas: TeamSnap and MOJO are mainly focused on the same targets: Families with kids between the ages of around 5 or 6 to 16. We focus on the big sports: soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, flag football, hockey and volleyball, and lacrosse. Overall, TeamSnap has more than 100 sports on its platform and more than 50% of its rosters have girls on the team.
TeamSnap CEO Peter Frintzilas expects the youth sports market to balloon to $70 billion by 2030. TeamSnap
Q: Do you have deals with certain leagues and are there ever concerns from parents about the exposure/ publicity?
Ben Sherwood: In the last few years, MOJO has partnered with the NBA, MLB, MLS, NFL FLAG, and FC Barcelona to create premium video coaching content that’s both age and developmentally appropriate. The leagues understand that participation at an early age is the No. 1 way to create a fan for life. That’s why they are so interested in MOJO and TeamSnap and the opportunity to reach so many families with technology and quality content that deliver better experiences. We take security and privacy very seriously and the safety of every athlete is our No. 1 concern in each decision that we make. There have been no concerns about exposure or publicity.
Q: How big is the market for youth sports and how do you see it growing in the next five years?
Peter Frintzilas: We estimate that around 60 million kids and teenagers play youth sports in the US. That means around half of all families have youngsters playing sports, spending an average of $883 per kid per season. It’s a very big and growing business with $30 to $40 billion in annual spending on registration, equipment, travel, and instruction. Youth sports have bounced back from the pandemic and we expect to see the market grow quickly and steadily in the years ahead. Globally, the youth sports industry is also very compelling with a $70 billion market estimated by 2030. This sector is seeing a lot of new investment. Indeed, we believe nearly $2 billion of disclosed capital has been put to work in youth sports over the last five years and billions more in undisclosed funding.
Mojo Sports was recently acquired by TeamSnap with the hope of growing the youth sports market through creating video content, among other things. Mojo Sports
Q: Professional sports rights are in such high demand. Do you foresee the same happening with youth sports?
Ben Sherwood: As everyone knows, the sports rights market is hot and expected to reach $60 billion globally in 2024, with the US leading the way at around $25 billion. Youth sports are very fragmented, but we believe there is an interesting opportunity to create new and meaningful live events including national and international competitions that follow in the footsteps of the Little League World Series, which really stands out on ESPN and ABC. So, yes, there’s a compelling niche opportunity in youth sports, but the rights fees will never look anything like NFL Sunday Ticket.
Q: Do you foresee mainstream streaming services getting into the youth sports game and what would that look like?
Peter Frintzilas: NBC Sports announced it was going into youth sports streaming in October 2023 with its SportsEngine platform. They see what we see: a big market of passionate consumers and easy-to-use technology that enables any game anywhere to be streamed live or later. We believe there are lots of interesting commercial streaming opportunities ahead. Stay tuned.
Sherwood predicted networks and streamers to jump into youthsports. Mojo Sports
Q: What kinds of advertisers are drawn to youth sports and have you seen ad spending increase since you launched Mojo in 2021?
Peter Frintzilas: TeamSnap has a very healthy advertising business that helps to subsidize the free use of our service for families. Advertiser spending on our platform more than doubled in the last year.
Large national and regional brands that want to connect with families understand that youth sports are a perfect audience. Fast casual restaurants, hotels, auto, and consumer packaged goods are very engaged on the platform and see great results. TeamSnap gives brands like DoorDash, Marriott, Apple, Gatorade, and Visa the chance to reach family audiences at a hyper-local level with national scale.
Q: How did your experience at Disney help you in this endeavor?
Ben Sherwood: I loved my years at Disney and learned so many important lessons from so many colleagues. One Disney mantra is that quality is always the best business plan. Closely related is the idea that surprising and delighting customers and exceeding their expectations creates the kind of loyalty that leads to lasting results. Of course, obsessing about quality and customers isn’t a new or original idea, but in youth sports, it hasn’t always been the focus. Until now.
Mojo has a number of advertisers that are looking to reach families and younger consumers who use the platform. Mojo Sports
Q: What do you foresee happening in the media industry in the next year as traditional companies battle declines in TV viewership and struggle to keep up with streaming giants like Netflix?
Ben Sherwood: It’s been a really rough year in traditional media – understatement – and I’m sure everyone is very happy to say good riddance to 2023. Alas, I’m afraid that 2024 is going to see more challenges for many. In pursuit of profitability, there will be more cost-cutting, more consolidation, and more disruption. But I remain optimistic about the future, especially for companies with the best IP that create the most welcoming environments for creators.