Lacrosse League Startup Gets Backing from Alibaba's Joe Tsai to Build Media Business

February 13, 2019
Updated 1mo ago

By Chloe Aiello

Professional lacrosse league startup Premier Lacrosse League has big ambitions to take professional lacrosse mainstream ー and now it has funding from big investors to do it.

Premier Lacrosse League announced on Tuesday it closed a Series A round of funding, co-led by Alibaba billionaire Joseph Tsai's J Tsai Sports, the Raine Group, and Brett Jefferson.

Disclosures: Cheddar Founder and CEO Jon Steinberg is a PLL advisor. Raine Ventures is an investor in Cheddar.

"Joe and I have had a relationship for a few years. He actually played lacrosse at Yale, and then has built this sports investment company called J Tsai Sports," said Paul Rabil, co-founder and chief strategy officer. "There's a lot of cross promotional, cross-pollination there and it made a lot of sense for him to get involved in this Series A round."

A professional player with Major League Lacrosse, Rabil founded PLL with his brother Mike based on their shared love of the sport. They've built a six-team league with a 14-game season, and have a live TV deal with NBC Sports. Rabil said the new funding will go toward funding of league operations, executive hires, and building out a media business.

"The league's going to be allocating resources toward creating content. We are the first team sports league in North America to actually open source content from games to give that to our players so they can post it natively on our platform," he added.

PLL isn't the first sports league to dip into direct-to-consumer media offerings. Professional Bull Riders kicked off its over-the-top streaming service RidePass in 2018 to offer subscribers live-event coverage and companion coverage for PBR events on CBS. Ultimate Fighting Championship and Chicago Fire soccer have also both inked exclusive deals with Disney's over-the-top streaming service ESPN+.

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