Speaking at Jefferies’ 2023 Private Internet Conference, Zach Weiner, Co-founder and President of Overtime, emphasized the need for entertainment companies to be agile, responsive, and in tune with the evolving habits of modern consumers.
For decades, large incumbents dominated the sports and media landscape, commanding consumer attention with traditional content and outreach strategies. As Millennial and Generation Z audiences came of age, legacy media struggled to keep pace. Their tried-and-true tactics failed to engage younger audiences, whose tastes were short-form and colloquial.
“When we started Overtime, this new 13- to 35-year-old demographic was our focus,” Weiner said. “By adopting the right voice and leveraging the right platforms, we could create content that really resonates with this next-generation audience.”
Weiner stressed that prosperity lies in understanding the digital space, adapting to audiences’ evolving interests, and constantly innovating to engage viewers. This audience-first strategy was instrumental to Overtime’s early success, and it continues to power the company’s growth today, with more than 80 million fans across platforms.
When it comes to engaging target audiences, Weiner cautioned against trying to cater to everyone. Success means finding consumers whose specific needs and interests you can meet. It is challenging to deliver compelling content and compete with major incumbents as a generalist.
“Do I want the 55-year-old sports fan to watch our basketball league? Sure – I’m not against it,” Weiner said. “But at the end of the day, by focusing more narrowly on Gen Z and Millennials, we can deliver content that really interests them.”
Weiner also spoke about the challenging environment for consumer internet businesses, and how those challenges informed his approach to monetization and business development as a young entrepreneur.
“Among founders, I’ve noticed two extremes: those focused on running the business their way, and those focused solely on revenue,” Weiner shared. “Like most things in life, you want to land somewhere in between. Do what you think is right for the business but remember the importance of revenue generation and cost conservation, too.”
With Overtime, Weiner is always exploring avenues for revenue diversification. The company’s path to profitability began with advertising and e-commerce through their media business. Once Overtime’s audience was well established, Weiner pursued new and larger opportunities for profit: live rights. Capitalizing on the media company’s intellectual property, Weiner launched Overtime Elite and OT7, two new professional sports leagues for the next generation of athletes.
“We realized that if we can make young people care about something, let’s make them care about leagues,” Weiner said. “The media company provides this base to launch the IP, which in turn creates much more economic value.”
Overtime Elite (OTE) achieved a significant breakthrough in the 2023 NBA Draft. Two Overtime Elite stars, twins Ausar and Amen Thompson, were considered among the draft’s best prospects, both taken in the top five picks. Two other OTE prospects received two-way contracts, with the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.
The launch of these spin-off leagues expanded opportunities for monetization, including a media rights deal with Amazon Prime, enhanced brand partnerships with companies such as State Farm and Gatorade, and an increase in merchandising opportunities. This balanced strategy — prioritizing the audience and core competencies while pursuing profitability — became the catalyst for Overtime’s growth.