Mars Reel, a digital-media startup focused on high-school basketball athletes and teams, has closed its $4.7 million initial funding round with new investments from Drake, NBA star Dwayne Wade and Otter Media, now part of AT&T’s WarnerMedia.
In addition to its cash investment, Otter Media will also serve as an adviser and strategic partner for Mars Reel in several areas. The new investors join a host of other previously announced backers from the worlds of sports and media, including NBA players LeBron James, Shane Battier, and Kevin Durant; hip-hop artist Nas; and actor Cedric Stewart.
Others investors in Mars Reel include Maverick Carter, LeBron James’ business partner and CEO of Uninterrupted and Springhill Entertainment; Devin Johnson, president of Uninterrupted; DraftKings CEO Jason Robins; Translation founder and CEO Steve Stoute; Bruce Tuchman, former global network chief for AMC, Sundance and MGM; Mars Reel chairman Jerry Hall, previously founder and CEO of Rev Software; 500 Startups; and lead investor Robert Hisaoka. According to Mars Reel, the funding round was over-subscribed.
L.A.-based Mars Reel was founded in 2010 by twin brothers Brandon and Bradley Deyo (pictured below), when they were themselves high-school basketball players in Maryland. They’re now 27.
The initial focus for Mars Reel was producing and distributing original short-form high school hoops highlights across internet platforms including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat, as well as via distribution partners such as USA Today Sports. The company has also produced longer-form programs such as “Mars Reel Chronicles,” a video diary series highlighting the daily lives of up-and-coming basketball stars and “Life on Mars,” a documentary series profiling athletes who overcome impossible odds to accomplish their dreams.
Otter Media has “an outstanding track record for finding, developing and investing in successful digital brands,” Brandon Deyo, the company’s CEO, said in a statement. “We are very excited to have the support of Otter Media as we expand our business and move into additional sports categories.”
Bradley Deyo, Mars Reel’s COO, added, “Beyond the financial commitment, which will help us continue our expansion into other types of programming and distribution platforms, we are so excited to have validation from artists, athletes and entrepreneurs like Drake and Dwyane Wade.”
AT&T took full control of Otter Media earlier this month, buying out Chernin Group’s majority stake in the venture in a deal reportedly valued at $1 billion. Otter Media’s subsidiaries include Ellation, with offerings under the Crunchyroll and VRV brands; Fullscreen; and Rooster Teeth. Otter also has ownership stakes in studio and distribution company Gunpowder & Sky and Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine.
“Mars Reel is a true innovator and we are excited to invest in young, passionate entrepreneurs like Brandon and Bradley who know and understand their audience,” said Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media, in a statement.
Mars Reel also has a partnership with LeBron James’ Uninterrupted, whose backers include WarnerMedia, to team on content development and distribution.