Interview: Chief content officer Jose Garnes on overhauling British Basketball League’s media operation

The British Basketball League (BBL) has some ambitious growth plans. Back in December 2021, Miami-based 777 Partners invested £7 million and took a 45% stake in the professional league.

At the time, BBL announced a raft of initiatives, from committing to a grassroots ‘Inspires’ programme to investing in the development of officials and referees, to installing new in-stadia technologies – as well as an overhaul of its content operation.

A new chief executive, Aaron Radin, was also appointed. Radin – whose previous roles include senior-level commercial positions at media and tech organisations such as the NBA, The Walt Disney Company, NBC Universal and Meta – said his top priority on joining was to “set up our organisation to be able to present our product, and tell our stories, in the most compelling, engaging way” by adopting a “hands on” approach to producing content. All of this is with the aim of reaching what Radin described as an “untapped” market.

I want to give people a reason to care about why they should follow a team, player, or the whole league. That’s my main focus.

Basketball may be the second most played team sport in the UK, but it’s fair to say it isn’t as popular as in some other European countries such as Spain, France or Greece (nations whose men’s teams are ranked 1st, 5th and 9th respectively by basketball’s international governing body FIBA. In comparison, Great Britain is placed 48th). That said, BBL has reported record viewership figures throughout the 22/23 season so far.

The task, then, says recently recruited BBL chief content officer Jose Garnes, is to build awareness of the league and make viewers care about the sport. “People don’t watch elite sport just because it’s good sport, people watch it because there is a backstory that they want to follow and they want to see how that plays out.

“As a league, we have a very good level of basketball that is played, but that’s not always enough for people to watch the next game, and the next game, or to follow a team.

“What we need is storytelling; why do you need to care about the team that is bottom of the league? What is at stake for the top of the league? I want to give people a reason to care about why they should follow a team, player or the whole league. So that’s my main focus. And then of course there’s a lot of things that we need to do to accomplish that, from improving the level of our broadcasts to growing the volumes of content creation that we do in between games, and more.”

Jose Garnes: appointed to the newly-created role of BBL chief content officer

Garnes was appointed at the end of last month to the newly created role of chief content officer, with a remit of leading the creation of the league’s broadcast, digital and social media content. Garnes previously spent three and a half years as head of content at SailGP, and prior to that that was senior producer at Sunset+Vine where he worked across Youth Olympic Games, the IOC’s YouTube channel and content for the International Fencing Federation and Mountain Bike World Cup.

His appointment is the first of several hires in the media and content department, with the BBL recruiting an executive producer, producer, coordinating producer, live director, editor, media manager, head of content, designer and writer over the past month as the league looks to create its own in-house production team. A core team will be in place by the time the 23/24 season starts in September, with a second round of hires likely in January.

“We are building a production arm of the league, which we are transforming from an an event business into an entertainment business. As part of that we’re going to be increasing our knowledge and expertise in production, and we are going to be pairing with some third parties who will have the knowledge on remote production and the workforce that is needed for that. But all of the editorial knowledge on what stories we want to tell will be within a core group within the BBL.”

Improving production values

Sky has been airing a BBL match on a Friday night for the last three years, and conversations about continuing that partnership are taking place. All other BBL games are streamed live via BBL’s own YouTube channel.

“Linear TV is valuable and it’s a place that we want to be as a league, but we know that we need to prove that there’s an appetite. And we know that there is, because we have been streaming our games for the last few years, but not to the level that can really showcase what the BBL has to offer so there’s a lot of games aren’t getting the attention or the exposure that they should. So we’re going to be working on increasing the production values on those games from September.”

Over the last two months BBL has been involved in an RFP process for a facilities partner, with an announcement to be made “very soon”. Says Garnes: “The people that we have been talking with will allow us to get up to speed very quickly on the level of production that we want.”

A key element will be a shift to remote production. “If three years ago you had asked me about remote production, I would be very afraid of that word. But the three-and-a-half years that I spent with SailGP taught me that remote production can work very well, it just takes a different mindset. And it allows you to create content in volume, because you are not wasting time travelling up and down the country. And of course, some of the benefits of having everyone centrally are that you can create a lot more with a small team.”

The plan for BBL is to operate a remote production model from September onwards, with all of the feeds from the games coming into a central hub where the BBL production team, gallery, commentators, editors, and producers will be based.

Social media

Social media is an area also set for an overhaul, with current activity just “the tip of the iceberg”, says Garnes. In September last year, BBL signed a three year partnership with WSC Sports for automated highlight creation, including top ten montages, condensed game highlights and short clips of the best plays. And it uses Greenfly to share content with players and teams.

The plan for next season is to create a self-service set of tools and resources for players and teams to use. “Then all they have to do is post that content,” says Garnes.

“At the moment, if anyone wants to do that it can still be quite a manual process. And if you have 10 teams asking you for one clip each, there’s a bottleneck. As we grow as the league, our media management system will allow us to start being able to curate our content and share content across to the teams and players so the volume will increase, but the actual effort of doing it will be quite low.”

Read more A review of SVG Europe’s ‘Create, Share, Engage’ event, including FIBA Media and SailGP

With a new team to recruit, a facilities firm to appoint and begin working with and an overhaul to its social media strategy, Garnes jokes that he has now come to terms with the fact that he won’t be getting much of a break this summer.

“We will be busy, but I think it is the right time to do these things…it’s going to be difficult, and it will feel like we are going uphill at times, but now – with the support of 777 Partners and the vision of our CEO Aaron Radin – it is the right time to make all these changes to our workflows and to grow the sport and the entertainment side of the league.”

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