Scott Moore calls himself and new business partner Vinay Virmani the Odd Couple. But while noting that Virmani is “way younger and way cooler,” Moore also believes they are a perfect fit when it comes to bringing the sports media brand Uninterrupted to Canada—Moore as CEO and Virmani as chief content officer.
Moore, who graduated from Ryerson in 1984 (a year before Virmani was born), has spent his whole career in sports media. He started as a producer in the early days of TSN, and rose through the ranks at CTV and CBC. He was most recently at Rogers Sportsnet, where he helped make the $5.2 billion deal giving Rogers NHL rights in Canada until 2026. Few in Canada have a better sense of what marketers want and need from their media partners.
Virmani, on the other hand, is a writer, director and actor with a deep understanding of content production in a digital age, as well as a handful of feature films on his IMDB page. They include Dr. Cabbie and Breakaway, about an Indo-Canadian hockey player who dreams of playing professionally.
Both men share a love of sports, and a belief that sports content has to change to meet the needs of modern consumers and the marketers eager to reach them. Uninterrupted ticks those boxes: New sports content, produced, packaged and distributed in very modern ways. It also happens to be backed by two of the biggest stars in the world: NBA superstar LeBron James created the platform with his business partner Maverick Carter, and Drake is supporting the Canadian version.
The content is about athletes, but there are no cliché quotes about giving 110% and solid defence. This is about athletes as human beings, away from the games they play. It’s created for the digital age, with brands carefully integrated to provide wide exposure to an audience that skips ads and installs ad blockers.
Examples on the U.S. version include “Kneading Dough,” which is sponsored by Chase (with Jay Z’s “Dead Presidents” as theme music) and features athletes talking about how they managed life-changing amounts of money; “Sixth Sense,” has two teammates playfully asking questions to see how well they know each other. It is sponsored by State Farm using the tagline “Get a teammate that gets you.” Another property, “Rolling with the Champion,” is built around conversations with NBA stars during an Uber ride.
In Canada, Uninterrupted has a development deal with Shopify for a series on athlete entrepreneurialism, which has been one of the platform’s key areas of focus for its marketing.
Uninterrupted Canada officially launches Friday night with both Drake and James in Toronto. The Message spoke with Moore and Virmani ahead of the launch to get a better understanding of the vision for Uninterrupted Canada.
What is “Uninterrupted”
“It’s not a website, it’s not a TV channel, it’s not a TV program, it’s not an Instagram page. It’s all of the above, and it’s tied together with a brand,” said Moore.
“Some people said, ‘Oh, so you’re doing digital shorts.’ Not at all,” said Virmani. “It’s everything. It’s long form, short-form, whatever format serves the story.” It’s the stories that matter most, with athletes themselves helping craft those stories—assisted by Virmani and a stable of professional writers, directors and producers. Look for two or three short pieces a week, and two or three long form, documentary-style pieces a year, said Moore.
“This is not anything that’s team affiliated,” added Virmani “This is about [the athlete’s] own brand. This is about their own stories, that they’re really passionate about telling. So I think the fact that it’s super authentic makes it unique.”
The term authentic gets used a lot in marketing these days, but isn’t this athletes them presenting their own brand in a positive way?
“It’s not always about athletes wanting to show themselves at their best,” said Virmani. “What I love about this platform is [that] athletes allow themselves to be vulnerable, and really let people know their intimate sides: their insecurities, what are they battling, or what are their challenges. So in that way, it’s super authentic.”
“This is individual voices of athletes talking about what’s important to them,” said Moore. “It’s not what happens in the locker room. It’s what these athletes are feeling, which is, I think, a lot more to the taste of current sports fans, and particularly millennial sports fans.”
What is the Canadian consumer appetite for this?
“I really feel now is the time to invest in content in sports,” said Moore. Live sports obviously remains important to fans, but in the digital age, people want to know about the athletes themselves and get content beyond game coverage. “Vinay is pushing me to be thinking about content in a different way and delivering content in a different way. And I’m pushing him to make sure that we we monetize it through sponsors,” said Moore.
What about sponsors?
They’re in discussion with a handful of founding sponsors, with deals likely announced in the next few weeks. They could do basic pre-roll, said Moore, “[But] I would like to do something that is a little more integrated and try some new formats.” It’s different from his days working at legacy media. They want to try new things, but that means more discussions and debates about the kinds of content that can be produced. “Any time they do a deal with a brand [at Uninterrupted] there is always a producer in the room, we are going to make sure it works on both sides,” said Moore.
How will you produce the content?
“I constantly surround myself with really young filmmakers, editors, shooters, because their aesthetic, their storytelling, their editorial knowledge, is something that we have to learn from,” said Virmani. “How they consume content, how they create content is changing so quickly, so I’m really excited about tapping into that talent.”
“Vinay has been pushing me on is to make sure that we bring in a lot of young, diverse voices to the to the brand, which I think’s really important,” adds Moore.
How will you build audience?
“Well we’re fortunate to have two fairly well-known partners,” said Moore. Drake has more than 38 million followers on Twitter and nearly 60 million followers on Instagram, while James has more than 43 million followers on Twitter and nearly 51 million on Instagram.
“That is a huge advantage,” added Virmani. “But the athletes—because they’re in the creator driver’s seat—they’re bringing their built in audience to whatever pieces of content we have.”
Have they met James and Drake?
Virmani has actually known Drake for about 10 years, said Moore. “I’ve met LeBron now four times through Maverick, and I have to say of all the professional athletes I have met, I have not been impressed with anybody more than LeBron. He works a room like the best CEOs.”
Will Drake have a role?
“Drake is a partner, he is also a promoter,” said Virmani. “But we’re also going to work with him and his team very closely to find stories that he’s passionate about that he wants to be a bit more hands-on with.” If things go as well as they hope with the business, they could end up getting even closer to the rap megastar.
“Hopefully it’ll end up with Vinay and I building houses right next to his,” said Moore.