Sports-focused ad network Media Strike‘s closest competitors have all been acquired by media conglomerates. CEO and co-founder Chris Huse has seen a few offers himself, but is just getting started.
The bootstrapped company launched in February to serve ads on sports-focused content sites and already it’s profitable. The company has more than 600 publishers in its network serving 23 million monthly unique users, Huse says.
He started the company when he noticed the medium and long tail of sports blogs being underserved by the industry’s existing players. Media Strike competes with Yarbarker, acquired by Fox Sports Interactive in 2010, and Big Lead Sports, acquired by USA Today Sports Media Group in January. At the time, Big Lead served 19 million uniques. Yardbarker had just over 21 million uniques in January.
With an audience of 23 million, Media Strike has quickly emerged as a viable competitor. The company’s network includes the sports section of Chacha.com, which has four to five million monthly uniques, as well as RealGM.com, an NBA site, and RunningintheUSA, a race site, and several popular wrestling sites. Around 20 of Media Strike’s publishers are in the 250,000 uniques and higher category, with the rest super long tail.
Currently 26 brands are active advertisers with the site, including Nissan and several other Fortune 500 companies. On that side, Media Strike (as well as Yardbarker and Big Leads) compete with blog networks like Bleacher Report or SB Nation. “Even though they’re not an ad network but they have the reach and command to get direct deals (with advertisers),” Huse says. “Some day we’ll try to work with players like Bleacher Report, but right now we live in the mid to long tail.”
Bleacher Report sold to Time Warner for between $175 million and $200 million last week. It actually has a smaller audience of around 10 million monthly uniques, but it produces its own content at very low costs (an “evolved content farm“) and therefore doesn’t have to split revenue with either an ad network or a blog.
Media Strike’s ad network competitors sold for much lower valuations. Even though the company has already been approached by suitors, Huse says it’s far too early.
He’s using Glam Media as his model: The content network which focuses heavily on women’s lifestyle content has 280 million monthly uniques across seven verticals in the US. It’s raised $155 million in venture backing and spent $150 million across eight acquisitions. It is expected to file for an IPO this year.
Media Strike is thinking big but has a long way to go. The company only has six employees and doesn’t plan to raise outside funding if it can continue to add people and remain profitable. Plans are underway to move beyond sports into other male-dominated categories, and publishers and clients are being aggressively added to the network, Huse says.