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Endeavor’s IPO prospectus for dummies: Why the Hollywood player wants you to think it’s a tech company

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Endeavor, the “global entertainment, sports and content company,” which owns and operates such varied businesses as the leading Hollywood talent agency WME, the mixed-martial arts sport Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Miss America pageant, the Miami Open tennis tournament, the Frieze Art Fair, and much more, released its long-anticipated IPO prospectus on Thursday.

It should be a momentous occasion for Hollywood, with one of its most prominent characters–Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel–having built his boutique talent agency into a conglomerate which generated $3.6 billion in revenue last year and will likely be a public company sometime this summer. (Imagining Emanuel, who is both legendarily foul-mouthed and not renowned for his patience, fielding the queries of the usual suspects of media analysts on quarterly earnings calls, fills a nerd like me with delight.)

Yet in reading Endeavor’s IPO prospectus, I couldn’t help but think about how thoroughly the tech industry has overrun the entertainment business–and Endeavor knows it. Which is why it drapes itself in the language and the corporate trappings of a high-tech startup going public rather than present itself as the 24 year-old product of growth-by-acquisition that it is.

Endeavor wants potential investors to know that it is a “platform.” As Emanuel writes in his CEO letter about Endeavor’s journey and its history of acquisitions, he states, “These companies combined to form a platform distinguished not only by its longevity–having collectively withstood over 120 years of disruption–but also its access, scale and global network.” The word “platform” appears 89 times in the S-1 document filed with the SEC, and it’s overwhelmingly used in reference to Endeavor’s own rather than that of the companies it relies upon to be buyers of its projects.

As any tech observer knows, the companies that can convince everyone that they are a platform are the envy of the business world. “We’ve also built a socially engaging platform in the workouts themselves,” Peloton’s head instructor told CNBC earlier this year as the company seeks to be the “digital platform revolutionizing the future of fitness” according to Harvard Business School case study. WeWork is a “platform for creators.” The high valuations of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google stem from Amazon Marketplace and Amazon Web Services; the iPhone and iOS; Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger; and Google’s search engine, Android, and YouTube being considered the dominant platforms in e-commerce, cloud computing, mobile computing, social networking, messaging, search, and digital video.

If you control a platform, then other businesses build their own on top of yours and they benefit from your ability to amass a large number of consumers and other key players to the ecosystem such that, in theory, everyone wins. In addition, platforms enjoy the benefits of lock-in, switching costs, network effects, and other aspects which lead them to grow........

© Fast Company