The NFL continued its move onto new media platforms in a deal with social-audio darling Clubhouse. The NFL will program a dedicated “club” football-related conversations on Clubhouse, beginning with ongoing live conversations around this week’s NFL Draft.
The programming will run throughout Draft Week, which has evolved into one of the biggest spots, certainly in the off-season, for the league and its media partners.
“There’s so much on Clubhouse that’s perfect for sports,” said Clubhouse co-founder and CEO Paul Davison during the company’s regular Sunday-morning “town hall” discussing the site’s latest developments, including the NFL announcement. He pointed to future rooms or clubs focused on individual teams, live conversations about games, fantasy sports and betting and more.
Davison also introduced the company’s new head of sports partnerships, Sean Brown, who most recently was a senior marketing director for Wasserman, the agency owned by Los Angeles sports and media entrepreneur Casey Wasserman, and one of its subsidiaries, Laundry Service, according to his LinkedIn profile. Brown previously spent five years at Nike
, among other career stops.
“Our first partnership is with the NFL, for the NFL Draft,” Brown said. “I’m really hyped about that.”
Programming begins Monday on Clubhouse, though the site may remain hard to reach for many fans. It is barely a year old, and available only on Apple devices running iOS apps. Further, the site remains invite-only, though a move earlier this year to loosen up access to invites saw a rush of more than 8 million app downloads.
The San Francisco-based app recently raised $100 million at a valuation of $1.4 billion, making it one of Silicon Valley’s newest “unicorns.” The company also has seen a sudden explosion of competitors, including Facebook and Apple, which both announced various audio-related initiatives last week. A herd of lesser-known copycats are also trying to carve out space in the suddenly hot sector.
Davison said Clubhouse is working assiduously on an Android version of the app that should be available very soon, expanding its reach to hundreds of millions of other potential users.
The deal is only the latest move by the league onto an up-and-coming service. NFL also previously had cut deals with Snapchat in 2015, and TikTok in 2019, both at relatively early points in the popularity of what are now social-video powerhouses.
Earlier this year, it partnered with esports platform Skillz to run a contest for new football-related gaming apps, with the winner getting official NFL status and promotion from both the league and Skillz. Skillz went public in a SPAC-backed deal late in 2020.
Separately during the town hall, Davison said he would love to see “the emergence of a 24-hour news service on Clubhouse.” The Los Angeles Times has just launched a club on Clubhouse too, executives said, and has set an Oscars-focused room for discussions about tonight’s awards.
Davison said he and other Clubhouse executives also would like to see more rooms styled after advice shows. He cited as an example the 1990s/2000s-era late-night radio and MTV institution Loveline, when it featured Dr. Drew Pinsky and Adam Carolla. Pinsky already has a presence on Clubhouse, Davison said, but both have gone on to many other film, TV and podcasting ventures.