Norfolk Network stories

All things extreme

Jane Chittenden
Business Writer and Editor

Al Gosling’s not one to do things by halves. He loves the adrenalin rush of extreme sports: surf, skate, snow. And he loves it so much that when he was just 24 he set up his company Extreme TV, distributing and selling sports TV programmes to appeal to young people like himself.

That was in 1995 and his timing was perfect. He’d hit on a huge market that wasn’t being catered for at all by the mainstream media. Within four years he and his team were selling extreme sports content to TV audiences worldwide, with a turnover of more than £4m and building a valuable brand at the same time. But they couldn’t get through to the big TV companies in the UK – they weren’t interested in that kind of thing. Football was the only sport in town as far as they were concerned.

It was football that gave Extreme TV the breakthrough they needed. They acquired the rights to a big UEFA away match: Atlético Madrid. “We’d had no deals at all in the UK until we got the rights to this match,” Al says. “All the big guys got in touch – the BBC, Sky and all the others – and we sold the rights for $1m.”

That deal inspired them to launch their own TV channel. They found their ideal partner for a joint venture, Europe’s largest cable company UPC/Liberty Media, and together they launched the Extreme Sports Channel across Europe. This was at the height of the dotcom boom and for the next five years their TV channel attracted millions of fans.

Al Gosling founder and CEO of EXTREME
“There was a tear in my eye, but we’d got some cash in the bank.
And we’d got the brand.”

They decided to develop their brand – The Extreme Sports Company – beyond TV, taking the licensing route rather than media, and learning from the successes of brands like Disney. Hotels, taking the brand into a physical space, seemed like a logical step. But that’s where it all went horribly wrong – at first. An exciting phase was about to start, bringing together hotel operators in South Africa and property developers in Dubai. Then, just weeks from contract signing, both parties pulled out.

There was to be an upside. They ended up running the first hotel for a while with the new owners in South Africa. It was phenomenally successful, giving them the blueprint for operating and developing hotels and sports facilities.

Since then they’ve taken the brand much further. There’s product licensing with big-name brands: drinks, fashion, men’s grooming, electronics, apps and gaming. And events – extreme events, of course. There’s no end to the possibilities…