League has ambitious plans to become a production company as well as a federation
The British Basketball League has grand ambitions as it gets underway with a new season.
As head of marketing Joe Edwards put in his recent Broadcast Sport piece, the league wants to “revolutionise” the game in the UK, and it has begun this by transforming itself. This investment comes after 777 Partners acquired a 45% stake in the organisation in 2021, although The Times has recently reported on cash flow issues at the American investment firm. It also owns a number of football clubs in Europe and is in the process of potentially buying Premier League side Everton.
Chief content officer Jose Garnes was one of many new hires during 2023, and once he arrived in April he was responsible for bringing yet more people into the organisation.
Speaking to Broadcast Sport, Garnes, who arrived from SailGP and has also worked at Sunset+Vine, the IOC, and Red Bull, admitted that the sheer number of people that he needed to bring in was a “red flag”, but that it was necessary for what the British Basketball League aims for. “With the ambition that we have of becoming an entertainment company before an events company, it was pretty clear that [production] had to be in-house.”
He added: “I know what it’s like to talk to a client and then do their broadcast. As much as you get embedded and you become passionate about a project it’s never the same as when you’re thinking about it 24/7 and all you do is to improve your product at all costs.”
This involved bringing in an entire new production team to take over from former production partners Buzz 16 and Brandvox. When interviewing the potential new team members, “Basketball knowledge was important, but what I was looking for was people who wanted to tell stories and who weren’t afraid of doing something for the first time. That was the most difficult thing. When you begin a new project and don’t have guidelines on what was done before, some people thrive on that, and some people get scared by not having a safety net.”
This has resulted in hires from both inside and outside of basketball, including from, “the BBC, Al Jazeera, NBC, people [who] have been with DAZN, someone that is an influencer that is coming during the first steps into a professional content production, [and] someone who has been in basketball for 20 years.”
In particular, the influencer, “came from creating content on his own on British basketball and we’re utilising his knowledge and his experience to help us grow our channels and tap into that audience that he’s so well connected with already.”
The league continues to show one game-a-week on Sky Sports and the rest on YouTube, but what Garnes describes as the “premium” game on Sky has a brand new virtual studio and presenter, Jeanette Kwakye, with Ovie Soko as lead analyst. The YouTube games have new commentary teams and othe production enhancements, all being remotely produced from Timeline’s Ealing facility. There has also been an effort to make sure there are fewer clashes in the schedule, meaning there should be a maximum of two games ever happening at the same time.
A virtual studio was chosen for its flexibility in terms of setting for live, highlights, and magazine shows, and a desire to have the presenters able to move around dynamically. The league worked with Moov on the studio, and its creative director Adam Lawrence said: “The British Basketball League, something you just couldn’t say no to. We took a brand in need of a makeover, injected it with excitement and creativity, and brought virtual studios to life. From day one, our goal was clear: create a studio that immersed fans in the world of basketball. The challenge was simple: would fans, us, and the league embrace it? The result? A virtual studio born from imagination, now a vibrant hub for all things basketball - a true fusion of arena, studio, and branding.”
In addition to the presentation team, Garnes is keen to get current players involved in coverage, and already has a list of “12 to 15” who have shown interest in working in studio, commentary, writing blogs, and making video content. He noted, “One of the areas that we know that we are lacking is knowledge of who they are and building their profiles and identities.”
“We’re going to put a lot of emphasis on explaining who these players are, what they’re going through and what they’re trying to achieve through the ups and downs. That sounds very easy, but it’s not. It is going to be something we’re going to be crafting in year three, four and five until we start getting people recognising our players.”
Part of this is the introduction of the Unbeatable Highlights magazine show, that will air half-an-hour before games on Sky Sports.
Now that this production team is in place for the British Basketball League, it wants to offer it to other sports. Garnes explained, “We are putting in the foundation blocks for a production company, so anyone can come to us and say, ‘we want you to produce our sport.’”
“We’re building the knowledge. We’re building the facilities. We have great partners in Timeline, Moov, that we can bring in if we need their support. Editorially, creatively, we’re building a support team that can take other sports and produce for them.”
From this point onwards, “If they [commercial] say we need to do a spot for a drinks company or a sports manufacturer, we’re in effect the production company or the agency for the league and the partner.
“What we see is that instead of becoming a cost item, we can become a revenue item. We can sell our services and bring some of that money back into the league.”
The league isn’t aimin to stop here, Garnes has big plans. “As a team I want us to grow 50% in two years, maybe 100%. That’s a lot of bodies, but that will mean that we are creating more games at the same level as our premium games on Sky.”
The end result is, “I want people to speak about the British Basketball League in the same way that people mention The Hundred and Formula E. Formula E probably took three to four years to become part of the conversation and be recognised as leaders.”
After all this there is still the basketball itself, where the Garnes wants, “to be fighting for quality and storytelling with basketball leagues in Eastern Europe and Central Europe.”