SB Nation made news recently as All Things Digital announced “the Washington, D.C.-based sports blog and news start-up, has just completed a $10.5 million Series C round, which is being led by Khosla Ventures, according to sources. SB Nation has already raised about $13 million in total venture funding from Accel Partners, Allen & Company, Comcast Interactive Capital, as well as angel investors such as Ted Leonsis and others in Silicon Valley.”
Here’s whats some around the net are saying about the deal.
Dan Shanoff, DanShanoff.com:
This is a big deal, on a couple of levels:
*Resources: That is a large stake to push the pedal down in a couple areas SBN had already started accelerating: Ad sales (see the recent Samsung takeover on the site), distribution partnerships (Yahoo was a big one in the past year), technology (which is a widely underestimated core asset), editorial talent (like the regional editors), acquisition (like Spencer Hall’s EDSBS). And ad sales. And, um, more ad sales.
The fact is: You have to spend to make. The company has had to (and still has to) spend on technology and distribution and talent to increase traffic, but also spend on more sales talent to tell the company’s story to marketers — both nationally and regionally.
*Valuation: Between the incumbent sports-media companies backed by massive corporations (ESPN, FoxSports.com, CBSSports.com, Fanhouse, Yahoo! Sports, Comcast regional online sports sites — even Deadspin) and early-stage start-ups (present!), name a current independently owned sports-media company valued between, say, $5 million and $100 million.
That’s right: SB Nation. And that’s about the extent of the list. (Citizen Sports was acquired earlier this year by Yahoo for $50 million. Yardbarker was acquired a few weeks ago by Fox Sports for an undisclosed amount. Unsure about Big Lead Sports’ valuation.)
$23.5 million in capital raised and a valuation over $60 million and what you are looking at ladies and gentleman is a company that is likely to sell for 9 figures. While that’s not unheard of for a startup by any means, for a digital media company you’re in rare company and for sports the only other 9 figure acquisition on the board is Yahoo’s acquisition of Rivals. While I self admittingly will cheerlead any development in this niche space, this one is by far the most impressive feat to date.
A lot of this growth you really have to attribute to their CEO, Jim Bankoff, who joined the company a little under 2 years ago. The concept was right, the writing talent was distinguished, and the technology was ahead of the curve. However Jim’s been really able to open up doors for the company that has vastly accelerated the growth of the company.
Ronnie Kerr, Valor.TV
Over the summer, SB Nation acquired SportingNews’ The Sporting Blog. With some new cash on hand, the company could be poised to snap up some more small networks and startups.
Matthew Ingram, Business Week / GigaOM
“More Targeted, Social, and Real-Time”
The idea of topic-focused blogs with real-time content and a passionate readership was a natural for Bankoff—he is a former senior executive at AOL, where he was in charge of developing the blog strategy that led to the creation of the massively successful entertainment blog TMZ, as well as the acquisition of Weblogs Inc., which brought to AOL such leading blogs as Engadget. “I have always believed that online publishing is getting more targeted, more social, and more real-time,” Bankoff said. The CEO said that SB Nation’s traffic and readership numbers have tripled in the past year, and that the network now gets about 17 million unique visitors a month.
Is there anything that broader news-oriented sites like Patch—or the hyperlocal offerings that The Washington Post is reportedly planning to launch—can learn from SB Nation? Bankoff says one of the important features of the network is that hyperfocused, topic-specific blogs don’t just appeal to readers, they appeal to advertisers as well. “You can have a much deeper and more focused conversation as a member of these communities,” the SB Nation CEO said, “and that’s what advertisers care about.” The important thing is that the writers are a part of that community and engage with it on a deep level, he said.