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YouTube Sports MCN The Whistle Acquires The Lacrosse Network (Exclusive)

The Whistle expands into new genre with deal, as MCN consolidation continues

The Whistle, a sports multichannel network on YouTube, has acquired The Lacrosse Network in another instance of consolidation in the MCN space.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Whistle, launched in January, has raised $10 million from investors including Bob Pittman, chairman and CEO of Clear Channel; Gerry Laybourne, former head of Oyxgen Media and Nickelodeon; and SeventySix Capital.

The Whistle now has 5 million subscribers across YouTube, and has registered 600 million views of its videos featuring athletes, creators, brands and leagues. The New York-based MCN’s professional league content partners include Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the NFL, PGA Tour, NASCAR, Major League Lacrosse, Major League Ultimate and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

The Lacrosse Network will add more than 210,000 subscribers, who view 2.3 million videos monthly, to The Whistle. The acquisition gives The Whistle access to TLN’s live broadcasts of lacrosse games, documentaries, features, highlight reels and library of original programming.

“Our first acquisition is also the first place millions of lacrosse fans and athletes have turned to learn about and enjoy their favorite sport,” said Whistle co-founder and CMO Jeff Urban. “TLN built a great team, captured a growing and passionate audience and deliver interesting content on a regular basis.”

The deal “underscores the accelerated pace of strategic MCN activity, as well as the increasing vertical focus of the overall MCN market,” said Peter Csathy, CEO of Manatt Digital Media. With The Whistle adding lacrosse to its mix, “other leading MCNs will follow similar M&A strategies to further distance themselves from wannabees.” Manatt does not hold an interest in The Whistle or TLN.

Claude Ruibal, YouTube’s global head of sports partnerships, cheered the deal. “The momentum we’re seeing from sports channels on YouTube like The Whistle and The Lacrosse Network is as thrilling to see as the sports themselves,” he said in a statement. “With so much opportunity in sports video, we look forward to seeing what these channels do next.”

Recent deals in the MCN space include Disney’s acquisition of Maker Studios for at least $500 million and AwesomenessTV, previously acquired by DreamWorks Animation, buying up Big Frame. Meanwhile, another major MCN, Fullscreen, is in talks with several parties about a potential acquisition.

Under the terms of the acquisition, The Lacrosse Network’s founders and employees will become part of The Whistle team. TLN’s studio in Los Angeles will add to The Whistle’s production facilities in New York and Dallas. TLN president Samir Chaudry will remain in the role. The Whistle will work with TLN’s team to develop and promote content on its YouTube channels, including behind-the-scenes and cross-channel programming on its digital platforms, including its website, mobile apps and on YouTube.

“The Whistle is building an entirely new kind of cross platform digital network and, with the support of pro leagues, is moving quick to scale across multiple sports,” Chaudry said in a statement. “We look forward to integrating our team, our programming and our expertise into their multimillion-subscriber network.”

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