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Volume 23 No. 13
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Making a production of it

A glance at entertainment studios launched by athletes
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Carmelo Anthony

Krossover Entertainment (2007)

The first production out of the NBA player’s company was “Tyson,” a 2008 documentary distributed by Sony that netted $942,049 at the box office. His most recent effort, a 30-episode “This Is” series, ran on YouTube in 2018.

 

 

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David Beckham

Studio 99 (2019)

The studio will develop documentaries and other content and will serve as a creative agency for Beckham’s brand partners. Through a development agreement with LeBron James’ Uninterrupted (see story), the companies are co-producing a documentary series that will follow the evolution of Inter Miami CF, the MLS expansion team of which Beckham is a co-owner. In a deal signed last month, WME now represents Beckham in all areas, including the studio.

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Martellus Bennett

Imagination Agency (2012)

The shop made its debut in 2017 with “Zoovie: A Warm and Fuzzy Tale,” a 28-minute animated movie that was written and directed by the former NFL player. The short was based on a book that Bennett wrote.

 

 

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Tom Brady

Religion of Sports (2017)

The studio pairs the future NFL hall of famer with Michael Strahan, who is already there, and producer, writer and director Gotham Chopra. Brady teamed with LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment (see story) last year to produce Showtime’s series “Shut Up and Dribble.” Also in 2018, Facebook’s docu-series “Tom vs. Time” provided an inside look at how Brady balances his personal and work lives. The studio received a $3 million venture capital investment last year.

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Kobe Bryant

Granity Studios (2016)

Bryant’s first production, an Oscar-winning short film called “Dear Basketball,” was based on his 2015 farewell letter to his basketball-playing days. The studio also produces the “Detail” series for ESPN+. Bryant is an investor in Derek Jeter’s The Players’ Tribune (see story). Bryant and Granity are repped by WME.

 

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Stephen Curry

Unanimous Media (2018)

Curry last year signed a wide-ranging deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment that will focus on, but not be limited to, the development of films and TV programming that revolves around faith, family and sports. One of the studio’s first releases was “Emanuel,” a documentary film detailing the mass shooting by a white supremacist at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. Curry brought on two former Nike executives — Jeron Smith and Erick Peyton — to help run the business. In 2016, Curry was the NBA’s first unanimous choice for MVP, thus the name of the studio.

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Kevin Durant

Thirty Five Ventures (2017)

The newly signed Brooklyn Nets star has been busy the past several years. In 2014, HBO ran a documentary called “The Offseason: Kevin Durant,” that included musician Jay-Z as an executive producer and looked at Durant’s off-court interests; “Still KD: Through the Noise,” a documentary in partnership with Nike that chronicled Durant’s first season with the Golden State Warriors debuted in 2017; during the 2017-18 season the YouTube series “Parking Lot Chronicles” provided a behind-the-scenes peek at game night at Oracle Arena; starting last February ESPN+ aired “The Boardroom,” a six-episode sports business series; March brought “Fly By,” a series produced with Uninterrupted and sponsored by Alaska Airlines that features athletes touring some of the most interesting places in the cities they live and play in; in May Fox Sports aired “Q Ball,” which follows the lives of inmates at California’s San Quentin State Prison, which each week hosts men from outside prison to play basketball; and Apple TV will soon stream “Swagger,” a scripted series that will explore the world of AAU basketball through the lives of its players. Rich Kleiman is Durant’s manager, as well as co-founder and business partner in the venture.

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Julian Edelman

Coast Productions (2019)

“100%: Julian Edelman” is a 73-minute Showtime documentary that tracked the Patriots wide receiver’s journey from tearing his right ACL in 2017 to serving a four-game suspension for failing a PED test in 2018 to being named Super Bowl MVP in 2019. It featured conversations with Tom Brady, Deion Sanders, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Strahan and Snoop Dogg.

 

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Michael Finley

Follow Through Productions (2010)

The four films produced by the former NBA player and current Dallas Mavericks assistant vice president of basketball operations — “The Birth of a Nation,” “Meet the Blacks,” “The Benefactor,” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” — generated $205.2 million in worldwide box office revenue. Finley also is a partner in Argent Pictures with Drew Brees, Derrick Brooks and Tony Parker.

 

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Rickie Fowler

Main Event Productions (2018)

The former Oklahoma State golfer teamed up for the second straight year with NBC Sports to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the country’s top college golf programs (OSU made the show each year). Additionally, his docu-series “Basketball or Nothing,” which follows a Navajo Nation high school boys basketball team, premiered last week on Netflix.

 

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Blake Griffin and Ryan Kalil

Mortal Media (2016)

Paramount has signed the shop to produce a sequel to the sci-fi action comedy “Shanghai Noon.” The pair also have rights to make a sequel to the 1991 Disney movie “The Rocketeer,” and a “White Men Can’t Jump” remake by “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris. In TV, Griffin executive produces Fox’s “Okies of Bel Air,” an animated comedy which has hints of Griffin’s life. Mortal is repped by UTA and Ziffren Brittenham.

 

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LeBron James

SpringHill Entertainment (2013); Uninterrupted (2014)

Alongside partner Maverick Carter, SpringHill’s portfolio ranges from this spring’s HBO Muhammad Ali documentary called “What’s My Name?” to CBS’s “Million Dollar Mile” reality series to the History Channel’s 2018 civil rights documentary “Rise Up: The Movement that Changed America” to “Space Jam 2,” the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes sequel scheduled to be released in 2021. The name of the company comes from the Akron, Ohio, apartments where James and his mother lived and where he finally got his first bedroom.

In 2015, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Turner Sports invested $15.8 million in SpringHill’s digital studio, Uninterrupted. Last year, that shop partnered with Twitter and Crown Royal for an exclusive live content series around the NBA Finals, called “Halftime is Uninterrupted.” This spring, DAZN and Golden Boy joined in to produce “40 Days,” a docu-series that ran on DAZN and Uninterrupted before moving to Univision, NBCSN and several RSNs in the weeks before the May 4 Canelo Alvarez-Daniel Jacobs boxing match. Last month, Courvoisier announced it was sponsoring a live storytelling event and content series called “Uninterrupted Live: The Day Ones.” Uninterrupted and UEFA Champions League winner Liverpool FC have inked a content partnership and development deal. James became a part-owner of the club in 2011.

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Derek Jeter

The Players’ Tribune (2014)

TPT is a digital platform developed for athletes to connect with fans through storytelling. Former NBA MVPs Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, for example, used the site to announce their respective retirements, and longtime pitcher Curt Schilling, who has cancer of the mouth, wrote a “Letter to My Younger Self” about the dangers of chewing tobacco. TPT has secured $58 million over the course of three rounds of funding. Former Spotify exec Jeff Levick joined TPT in 2017 as its first CEO and led the acquisition of Unscriptd last year. AT&T, Powerade, Snickers and Toyota are content sponsors.

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Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq Entertainment (2008)

Shaq is producing a docu-series for TNT called “Shaq Life,” with a premiere date to be announced. He also produces the annual “Shaquille O’Neal Presents: All-Star Comedy Jam.”

 

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David Ortiz

Big Papi Productions (2016)

Through a partnership with WME, Ortiz was executive producer of PBS’s “Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived;” an ESPN feature on his final season in 2016, and most recently, his own TV show on Fusion “Big Papi Needs a Job.”

 

 

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Chris Paul

Oh Dipp!!! Productions (2018)

Big Fish Entertainment and Paul have an exclusive television and production partnership deal that calls for the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard to create unscripted, scripted, digital, premium documentaries and short-form content across multiple platforms. The two first collaborated on a three-part ESPN docu-series, “Chris Paul’s Chapter 3,” which followed his journey to the Houston Rockets. CAA’s Lori York represents Paul and his studio.

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Dwyane Wade

59th & Prairie Entertainment (2019)

The new company recently announced a collaboration with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries on a documentary that will chronicle Wade’s life. Both shops are represented by CAA’s Lori York.

 

 

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Russell Wilson

West2East Empire (2014) and Why Not You Productions (2019)

Through West2East Empire, Wilson interviewed his personal heroes — Laila Ali, Chris Berman, Jim Brown, Felix Hernandez, Bill Russell and Verdine White — on “Legends,” a series that ran last year on Wilson’s TraceMe app. The app, now called Tally, received $9 million in funding in 2017 from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai. Alaska Airlines, Bose and Nike have been brand partners for Wilson’s productions. In April, Wilson and his Grammy-winning wife, Ciara, launched Why Not You Productions, a studio that will create content focusing on human interest stories across a variety of genres.

 

Recent arrivals

 

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Alex Morgan

Announced on July 18 that she plans to launch a media venture to focus on storytelling and content for girls created by female athletes.

 

 

 

 

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Odell Beckham Jr.

Announced on July 23 that he will work with Wheelhouse Entertainment and Portal A on the launch of his YouTube channel and production company ITN Productions.