Kai Pfaffenbach — Reuters

Even as it adds news and entertainment channels, the FIFA World Cup will still be major for fuboTV.

By Stacy Jones
June 20, 2017

Good news, sports fans: fuboTV is adding even more channels to its already expanding digital streaming service.

On Monday, the subscriber-based service announced it had secured $55 million round of Series C funding, which will help fuboTV appeal to a wider audience. The service got its start by offering American audiences a way to stream international soccer.

“Our goal is to use this investment to enhance the viewing experience with the addition of new content and development of key features directed at sports fans, and to greatly increase our marketing efforts,” David Gandler, fuboTV co-founder and CEO, told Fortune by email.

Although the startup has made a departure from its soccer-centric roots, it’s hard to ignore that the company is picking up steam amid FIFA World Cup Qualifier matches, the start of the Confederations Cup, and almost exactly a year before the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia.

“We expect the World Cup to have a major impact, as the most highly-anticipated sporting events globally,” Gandler said. “Based on results of similar high profile soccer contests, such as El Classico, we envision seeing concurrent viewership levels in the low six figures.”

At the start of the last World Cup, in 2014, Nielsen released a report showing that an increasing number of television networks were carrying major soccer events. It’s the most recent data publicly available from the consumer analytics firm, but won’t be the last.

FIFA announced in October that Nielsen would provide “the official market research for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.”

The most recent round of funding for fuboTV included Sky UK, a telecommunications company with 11 million United Kingdom customers as of 2015; Scripps Networks Interactive, the parent company of HGTV, Food Network, and Travel Channel; 21st Century Fox, whose stable of entertainment properties includes the Big Ten Network, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports Regional Networks, and the YES Network; and Northzone Ventures, a London-based venture capital firm that mainly invests in early stage software and technology companies.

fuboTV has now raised a total of $75 million since it launched in 2014.

The name itself is a holdover from the service’s original mission: Bringing international soccer, including the English Premier League, to an American audience. When the New York City company expanded its channel lineup earlier this year, it included UEFA Champions League, Worlds Cups 2018, 2022, 2026, MLS, Europa League, Germany’s Bundesliga, and the FA Cup to its offerings.

The lineup now also includes the NFL, NBA, MLB, golf, college football, entertainment, and news channels.

Adding channels to appeal to general audiences makes fuboTV a threat to the Dish Network-owned Sling TV. The service got its start in 2012 with a mission similar to fuboTV: Bringing international programming to an underserved U.S. audience as a supplement to, not a replacement for, traditional cable or satellite service.

In February, Dish Network chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen said that Sling had outgrown its add-on category and become a viable “direct replacement for cable and satellite.”

He added that he felt “dragged into” repositioning Sling as a full cable replacement after AT&T’s DirecTV, which launched in November, and Sony PlayStation Vue, which launched in 2015. Both had 400,000 subscribers as of March and were growing at a fast clip, according to Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav.

Meanwhile, the prevailing talk among analysts is that Dish Network’s Sling TV ended its first quarter of 2017 with 1.3 million subscribers.

fuboTV has been relatively quiet about its subscriber numbers since bragging about its growth rate last year, when it surpassed 71,000 paying U.S. customers.

“fuboTV’s strong Q2 results clearly demonstrate the company’s ability to excel within an increasingly complex linear OTT landscape,” Gandler said last July.

He didn’t tell Fortune how many subscribers the company has now (a company spokesperson said numbers will be released later this month), but Gandler estimates that concurrent viewers could reach the low six figures during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. This could mean that fuboTV anticipates every last one of its customers will be watching the tournament or that the company has experienced some significant growth in the last year.

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