news 6 months ago

ESPN+ Debuts ‘The Boardroom’ Talk Show From NBA Star Kevin Durant

Variety — Todd Spangler

Kevin Durant is taking his seat in “The Boardroom,” an ESPN+ original series delving into the sports biz with a rotating roster of athletes, tech moguls and sports execs.

The six-episode series comes from Thirty Five Ventures, the company owned by Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman. The first two launch Monday on ESPN+, Disney’s direct-to-consumer multi-sport subscription streaming service. Guests on “The Boardroom” include L.A. Lakers players LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma, Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, L.A. Clippers owner Steve Balmer, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Peter Guber, the co-owner of Warriors, Dodgers and LAFC.

“The Boardroom” is hosted by ESPN’s Jay Williams and features Durant and Kleiman, who also serve as the show’s executive producers. ESPN Insider analyst Jordan Schultz serves as a correspondent throughout the series.

“It’s really important for us to be able to bring fans inside the business world and give them perspectives they haven’t been able to see before, and I hope viewers will love it,” Durant commented about the show.

For ESPN, the exclusive series is the latest bid to persuade more sports fans to pay for ESPN+, the over-the-top complement to the core TV business. Last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that ESPN+ had surpassed 2 million subscribers, less than a year after its April 2018 launch. Note that ESPN+ bulked up its rolls after ESPN Insider subscribers were merged into the OTT service last summer; meanwhile, ESPN’s domestic linear TV rolls declined by 2 million subs in fiscal 2018.

In a cross-platform promotion, the Feb. 15 issue of ESPN The Magazine (hitting newsstands this Friday) will feature “The Boardroom,” with Durant, Kleiman and Williams pictured on the cover and a story focusing on how athletes can become modern moguls.

Each episode of “The Boardroom” focuses on one major topic or theme in sports. Episode one covers sneakers and the second takes a look at team ownership. Episodes 3 (social media) and 4 (player development) will debut March 15 on ESPN+, with 5 and 6 (a two-parters on athletes and their brands) streaming starting April 3.

“’The Boardroom’ seeks to capture the new way in which professional athletes interact with the business of sports, entrepreneurship, the investment community and our culture more widely,” said Connor Schell, ESPN’s EVP of content. “Kevin and Rich are part of the group changing the game in that regard, and ‘The Boardroom’ represents the kind of original programs we’re bringing to ESPN+ as we work with the biggest names in sports to tell new kinds of stories.”

Durant founded Thirty Five Ventures in 2013 with Kleiman, a longtime sports and entertainment exec. The company encompasses their existing business entities, including Durant’s personal brand/marketing portfolio and on-court contracts; their investment portfolio (which includes Postmates, Acorns, Overtime and Coinbase); the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation; and a media and creative development arm. Upcoming projects under the Thirty Five Ventures banner include the scripted series “Swagger” co-produced with Imagine Entertainment for Apple and Fox Sports Films’ “Q Ball.”

ESPN+ costs $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year. Programming on the service includes hundreds of MLB and NHL games; exclusive UFC and Top Rank boxing events; U.S. and international soccer; thousands of college sports events including football and basketball; Grand Slam tennis; international and domestic rugby; and cricket. In addition, ESPN+ offers exclusive series and the full library of ESPN’s “30 for 30” films.