Nov 6, 2023 - Business

Exclusive: Jason Wagenheim named North America CEO of Footballco

Jason Wagenheim. Photo credit: Pablo Espinoza

Jason Wagenheim is leaving BDG Media, the parent company of Bustle and a slew of other female-focused lifestyle brands, to lead the expansion of Footballco as its first-ever CEO of North America.

Why it matters: Footballco owns a stable of digital soccer websites primarily serving fans in Europe and the Middle East. Wagenheim has been hired to fuel the company's growth in North America ahead of the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

  • "The U.S. is such an untapped market for soccer fandom and soccer media coverage," Wagenheim said in an interview.
  • "There's an opportunity here to really grow it with the explosive popularity of soccer in the U.S."

Catch up quick: Footballco was formed when DAZN Group, a global sports streaming company, sold a majority stake in its media division to private equity giant TPG in 2020.

  • That transaction created a new media venture that includes Goal, one of the world's largest digital soccer brands, as well as German and Dutch soccer brands Spox and VoetbalZone.
  • The venture, which was later rebranded as Footballco, has expanded through the acquisitions of CalcioMercato, a major Italian soccer website, and Kooora, a UAE-based startup, in 2021 and 2022, respectively. It also bought a print soccer brand called Mundial last year.
  • Additionally, the firm has developed two of its own digital media brands around women's soccer and Gen-Z soccer fans called Indivisa and NXGN.

Details: Wagenheim will be tasked with creating a go-to-market strategy for Footballco in North America, which will include hiring a team to its grow products, drive its revenue opportunities and build an audience and brand awareness in the U.S.

  • "We're definitely focused on experiential, growing the audience and the social handles here in the U.S., and creating some U.S.-centric content and editorial tentpoles," he said. That includes building "new storytelling formats and products that we can take to market."

By the numbers: Currently, revenue from North America makes up less than 5% of the company's business, Wagenheim, said. "There's tremendous upside there," he added.

  • Footballco is profitable and earns around nine figures in annual revenue, per Wagenheim.
  • Right now, there are around a dozen people who are working on Footballco's U.S. operation.

Flashback: Wagenheim has led BDG Media's business as chief revenue officer since 2016. He was promoted to president, in addition to his role as CRO, in 2020.

  • Under his purview, BDG Media grew its footprint through a number of acquisitions, including Nylon, The Zoe Report, Mic and Scary Mommy.

What they're saying: "Jason grew BDG's revenue by orders of magnitude and was instrumental in driving the company's rollup strategy. Our team is excited for him and wishes him the best in this new role," BDG Media founder and CEO Bryan Goldberg told Axios.

  • "Jason's experience in female publishing and fashion comes at a time when the sport and our business are seeing tremendous opportunity post-[Women's World Cup 2023] and more fan overlap with fashion, lifestyle, music and culture led publishing," Juan Delgado, CEO of Footballco said in a statement.

The big picture: Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S.

  • Its popularity has attracted more investment from media companies who are expecting interest to rise even higher ahead of the World Cup in 2026.

What's next: Wagenheim will remain with BDG until the end of the year and begin work at Footballco in January.

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