Dave is the current Head of Strategy and Corporate Development at Barstool Sports and the former EVP and Head of Strategy at FanDuel. Today, you will hear about Dave’s current position at Barstool.
SBB: Let’s discuss your current job at Barstool. What might a typical day at work look like for you there, and how would you break down the various roles that you play?
DV: I think Barstool is a young enough company that every day can be very different. Strategy and corporate development is a unique role. For example, you’re not an accountant who is just recording the numbers every day. Yesterday, I spoke on a panel about the sports betting industry, so I’m helping formulate our sports betting strategy. Today, I’m building a model to think about the business case for our podcasts: how fast we are going to grow, how fast is the industry going to grow, etc. Every day looks different, which is one of the best things about working in strategy and corporate development. It keeps you engaged and excited about what you are doing.
SBB: Could you explain the business model at Barstool? In other words, how do you generate revenue?
DV: We make most of our money through advertising. We also have an e-commerce portion of the business where we sell shirts, hats, and other goods that are branded. Those are our two main sources of revenue but we also have some smaller ones, such as licensing our IP and a subscription business where customers can pay to get additional content that sits behind a paywall today.
SBB: Barstool has a unique approach to reporting, that I would characterize as “unfiltered reporting,” which often leads to the company being presented to a negative light by some of the mainstream media. What impact does this have on you and the company as a whole?
DV: A lot of it is just noise. It affects certain people differently. It is a small distraction, but you just deal with it and keep growing the business. Our massive 66 million monthly unique audience doesn’t really care about the noise, so our goal is to create great content for customers. As long as our audience is happy, we are happy.
SBB: When we talked about FanDuel, you talked about sports betting. Barstool has also been getting into the sports betting business through Barstool Bets. How do you see this growing in the future, and do you think it will become a large part of Barstool’s brand?
DV: Yes. I think it is becoming a big part of the content we are starting to produce. I think betting is naturally making its way more into the sports conversation; referring to the lines is happening more often, people are actively betting, and betting is becoming more of a cultural norm than it was several years ago. Betting is becoming integral to the content we’re producing so it will be a big area of expansion – and we’ll do it in an unfiltered Barstool way which will be great for the future growth of the company.
SBB: Beyond betting, how else is Barstool working to expand its market share overall in the sports media and sports business world?
DV: We’re trying to create additional content that is interesting to people. We have one of the largest audiences in digital sports media – we’re bigger than ESPN digitally. Barstool across social media, radio, and podcasting is bigger than ESPN.com and ESPN’s podcast platform. I’m pretty excited about that and it’s just about growing that lead and finding new customers, for example by breaking into new sports verticals in an interesting way. We have a lot of new female verticals, and our female audience is growing faster than our male audience, so we’re doing what we can to expand the addressable market and audience for us.
SBB: We’re going to do some quick lightning round questions now. First question, what is your favorite sports-related technology company and why?
DV: Well if you don’t consider Barstool a tech company, I’d have to go with my old friends back at FanDuel. I think what they have created is really compelling and is something I use very regularly and enjoy tremendously.
SBB: What is your favorite pizza place? Give it a score.
DV: I like Vezzo which is a thin-crust pizza in the West Village. I’d probably give it an 8.3 and I think Dave Portnoy has given it a rating in the 8s as well, so it’s definitely good stuff.
SBB: Who do you think will win the college football playoff this year?
DV: Well I’m a Notre Dame alum so I’m still grieving that Notre Dame has no chance to be in it, but I think it’s going to be LSU this year.
SBB: At what point do you think sports betting will become a mainstream thing that many people do across the country?
DV: I think it will be 5 to 10 years. Depending on whom you ask, it is a very mainstream thing in New Jersey already, where it’s legal and there are open mobile apps that you can use. I would say a majority of my college friends, who have been in a fantasy football league with me for 10+ years, now are active sports bettors. I think it depends on the demographics, but broadly I think in 5-10 years it will be embedded in the broadcast. It will be not in your face but it will have proliferated across the country by then.
SBB: What advice would you give to college students who are looking to work in the sports business?
DV: Work very hard. You don’t have to go to the sports business immediately. I think a lot of people make the mistake of saying “Hey, I need to get into sports immediately after I graduate.” Personally, given my investment banking experience, I think that starting outside of sports accelerated my career to a management/executive role in sports. If I went to work at a team or league right after college, I would’ve been a junior analyst and have to work 10, 15, maybe even 20 years to make it to a senior level. But I did 5 years of investment banking and was then able to transition over to sports, and within 2 years of working at FanDuel, I was in the management suite of six to eight people at a 400 person company by the time I was 30.
I think it’s all about the rigor at which you pursue your career. You don’t have to go to investment banking though. I’m very biased but see it as an incredible training ground as an extremely hard environment for a couple of years, but you learn a ton and then become extremely well qualified and can transition out of it to more senior roles at a company. My advice is just don’t rush to break into the sports industry right out of college; get trained, get a really rigorous skill set, and then think about what your optimal transition into sports is over time.
SBB: Thanks for the great advice, Dave. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today, and I’m sure our readers do as well.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.