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Team Whistle snaps up Tiny Horse in US$30m deal

Palomino OTT ad sales group also added as subsidiary.

by Tom Bassam

Team Whistle snaps up Tiny Horse in US$30m deal

Team Whistle, the New York-based digital media company, has acquired over-the-top (OTT) marketing services firm Tiny Horse in a deal reportedly valued around US$30 million.

Terms of the buyout have not been confirmed but according to Variety the acquisition is mostly in the form of a stock swap. Under the terms of the pact, Tiny Horse’s Palomino OTT advertising sales group will also become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Team Whistle.

The move for Tiny Horse - which counts Amazon, WarnerMedia, Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and ViacomCBS as clients - is Whistle’s third acquisition in the last 15 months. 

The company, originally known as Whistle Sports, bought Discovery-backed digital studio New Form in January 2019. In October, Team Whistle acquired Elisabeth Murdoch’s Snapchat-centric Vertical Networks.

The deal is designed to expand Team Whistle's capabilities in providing solutions for its brand, distributor and league partners. 

According to Team Whistle, the company is experiencing unprecedented growth, viewership and engagement currently. Since early March, Team Whistle claims its weekly network viewership is up more than 50 per cent, generating 4.2 billion global video views per month. Watch time has also increased by 25 per cent during this period, it says.

"With the pace of media transformation happening at an accelerated rate throughout Covid-19, acquiring Tiny Horse further positions us to lead through this time of tremendous change by combining our premium IP and massive activatable audiences with superior marketing and customer acquisition capabilities," said Michael Cohen, Team Whistle president. 

"Through organic growth and the Tiny Horse acquisition, Team Whistle is on track to more than double revenue in 2020."

Tiny Horse’s management team and current investors, which include Elizabeth Koch, founder of Unlikely Collaborators, will become Team Whistle shareholders. Other equity owners of Team Whistle include NBCU/Sky Sports, Discovery, ITV, Liberty Global, Snap, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo, Aser Media, Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Elisabeth Murdoch and CAA. Since launching in 2014, Team Whistle has raised over $100 million.

With the acquisition, Kyle Young, managing partner and co-founder of Tiny Horse, will become president of Tiny Horse and an executive vice president at Team Whistle, reporting to Cohen.

"We have a long history of working with Team Whistle on numerous fronts," said Young. 

"We're excited about the larger opportunities for our combined sales, marketing and production teams to not only deepen the relationship between Team Whistle's global audience and existing IP, but also offer this expertise and network to help streamers, brands and talent do the same."

Tiny Horse co-founder Melanie Capacia Johnson, current head of development and production, will continue in her current role, as will head of strategy and innovation, Owen Leimbach. Benjamin Simon, general manager and co-founder of Palomino, will continue to serve as its head of sales and brand partnerships. Tiny Horse co-founder Jonathan Reynaga is departing the company to pursue independent projects.