Religion of Sports Media, co-founded by NFL legends Tom Brady and Michael Strahan and filmmaker Gotham Chopra, has raised $10 million to fund a new leg of growth.
The Los Angeles-based media venture — whose sports documentaries have included “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” which it produced for Showtime, and “Greatness Code,” which it made for Apple — raised the cash from a team of investors including media heiress Shari Redstone, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Founded in 2016, Religion of Sports is looking to produce more video and audio content and finance it on its own. Chief executive Ameeth Sankaran said Thursday he plans to create new revenue streams through licensing and merchandising, expand internationally and grow its network of athletes and filmmakers.
“It would allow us to have more control of our destiny,” Sankaran said.
Thus far, the company has cranked out a handful of documentaries on famous athletes and the impact of sports on fans and culture. Its Facebook Watch show “Tom vs. Time” focused on Brady’s quest to play well into his 40s. “Shut Up and Dribble,” a three-part series for Showtime, examined efforts by NBA players to bring about social change and grow their brands off the court.
The $10 million Series A round is backed by Elysian Park, LinkinFirm and existing investors Courtside Ventures and Redstone’s Advancit Capital. Religion of Sports, which previously raised $3 million in seed money, declined to disclose a valuation.
Redstone, whose family owns Showtime owner ViacomCBS, said the venture is unique because of the access it has to Brady, Strahan and Chopra, who has made several sports documentaries, including ESPN’s award-winning “30 for 30.”
“They have the trust of the people they work with,” she said. “It’s hard for people to build that kind of trust.”
Even so, the trio forges ahead into the space when big digital publishers have been unable to turn a profit for years, and both online media and traditional TV businesses are hamstrung from the coronavirus pandemic, which has squeezed ad spending and halted film and TV production.
To differentiate itself from the pack, Religion of Sports said it will amp up its editorial voice on the cultural effects of sports and athletes, and veer away from the rote reality-TV format of following a famous athlete around. For instance, an upcoming project for the NFL will focus on what athletes learned from failure.
“I’ve been the subject of many docs — and Tom has as well,” Strahan told the Journal. “It’s a different feeling to be on the other side and have more control of the narrative.”
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