Barstool Sports has built its empire by being a maverick on the internet. So when it was allowed to sponsor, produce, and broadcast the Arizona Bowl, the media entity jumped all over the opportunity to exclusively stream an FBS bowl game for what appears to be the first time in history.
The experiment yielded promising results.
Per data provided to Front Office Sports from the company, Barstool.tv’s stream of Ohio’s thrilling overtime victory over Wyoming garnered approximately 1 million viewers, 500,000 unique viewers, and maxed out at over 130,000 concurrently.
Although Barstool is known for creating content differently than many of its media contemporaries, it recognized the awesome responsibility of putting on a bowl game. It decided to do things more conservatively this time around.
“This is a football game, first and foremost,” Barstool’s head of media technology and production Peter Overmyer told FOS. “We put a lot of effort into making sure that it looked and felt like any other bowl game… Personally, I feel like we delivered.”
When Barstool struck a deal with the Arizona Bowl in 2021, CEO Erika Ayers said that the bowl’s organizers approached the media company — not the other way around. Since its inception in 2015, the bowl has been attempting to lean more into streaming and finally got its wish this season.
“The Arizona Bowl was not our game, so making sure that what we wanted to do was in sync with what they were doing was important and required us to thread the needle a bit more than [the Barstool Sports Invitational basketball tournament],” says Overmyer.
The partnership’s inaugural game was canceled due to COVID in 2021. So Barstool had about 18 months to prepare for its first broadcast.
And while Barstool ensured that the stream would have the look and feel of a legitimate college football bowl game, it of course added some of its own flavor.
Barstool founder Dave Portnoy and “Pardon My Take” host Dan “Big Cat” Katz provided the color commentary for the game — which often consisted of them pulling for the teams they had picked to win or cover rather than analyzing each play. PMT’s Jake Marsh was on play-by-play duties.
The company also used helmet and pylon cameras for different perspectives.
During downtime in the game — what Overmyer calls “on the fringes” — the game added little bits of flair to keep the energy up.
- Buffalo Bills quarterback and Wyoming alum Josh Allen briefly joined the broadcast booth via video call.
- Other Barstool personalities roamed the sidelines to provide entertainment during breaks — which included one who acted as a tee retriever after kickoffs.
“We were able to fit those folks in where it was appropriate, where it wasn’t distracting, and where it maybe provided a little entertainment during what in a normal game might be some dry analysis or look ahead at the schedule,” Overmyer says.
Barstool also wanted to ensure a charitable aspect for the contest: From almost 30,000 tickets sold, the company raised $1.25 million — all of which will be donated to Arizona businesses affected by the pandemic, with the Barstool Fund matching that amount.
And ultimately, Barstool succeeded where it excels most: The Arizona Bowl generated 1 billion impressions and 1.1 million engagements across all of Barstool’s social platforms.
It provides an encouraging result for a company that is always looking for the next big thing on the internet.
“We are streaming first,” says Overmyer. “Everything that we’ve built, everything that we’ve done, is to deliver content over the internet. We’re proud of that and proud of being a destination for a younger audience that is used to consuming their sports over the internet.”