20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
3
2050
T   I   O   N
4
2040
S   F   O   R   J
5
2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
6
2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

Sports media enters the Bronny era

“It isn’t just about Bronny and the billions on the line in the battle between streaming platforms. High school basketball is designed for — and consumed by — the younger audience coveted by incumbent media companies and brands.”

Earlier this month, ESPN televised a high school basketball game between the alma mater of LeBron James and the current school of LeBron James Jr., otherwise known as “Bronny.” The game — and the hysteria around it, including the massive potential social media relevance for anyone shooting it into feeds everywhere — earned coverage from The New York Times, The Washington Post, ESPN itself, and a horde of credentialed media members.

Just a high school freshman, Bronny is already a one-name wonder in sports — on the same sports-celebrity trajectory as Serena, Tiger and, yes, LeBron.

Bronny also represents one of the biggest growth areas of sports media heading into 2020: high school basketball.

Bronny is his own beat:

  • He has 3.9 million followers on Instagram (not quite as many as his father’s 53.9 million, but a number that would make most NBA players — and media industry folks — envious). He has 300,000 followers on TikTok for now, but give it time.
  • ESPN’s live coverage of Bronny’s Sierra Canyon team is just the start; the network has more than a dozen of Bronny’s games on the schedule this year, everywhere from basic cable to its new ESPN+ over-the-top service.
  • And Bronny is the north star of an entire Gen Z-focused sports-media ecosystem of social platform dominance — by brands like Overtime (which in 2019 secured a $23 million Series B round from big-name VCs like Andreesen Horowitz and big-name NBA stars like Kevin Durant); B/R Hoops (owned by Warner Media’s Bleacher Report); Mars Reel (investors: LeBron, Drake, AT&T); LeBron’s own Uninterrupted; and a grassroots basketball “expanded universe” of unlimited smaller players whose legion of low-cost videographers assemble like paparazzi on the baseline of any high school basketball game featuring a buzzy player, everything captured and distributed on IG, Twitter, YouTube and Twitch.

What makes Bronny such an appealing investment for a media organization — beyond the attention he commands — is that as a freshman, he theoretically has more than 100 games remaining in his high school career, between his school team, his spring/summer appearances on Nike’s high-profile EYBL circuit, and other big events where he is sure to be the star. (Notably, most of the 2019 EYBL season was streamed on Twitch, accessible to all.)

It’s easy to imagine a world where sports media networks are shelling out tens of millions in rights fees to showcase Bronny’s games. In fact, I’d argue that it would make both editorial and business sense — for ESPN, DAZN (the most prominent sports media “direct-to-consumer” platform, which made huge strides in 2019), Amazon (either Prime Video or Twitch), WarnerMedia’s upcoming HBO Max, NBC’s Peacock OTT service, Verizon’s Yahoo Sports or even LeBron’s Uninterrupted — to tap into high school hoops star power and social relevance in a media landscape where NBA and college rights are both stratospheric and locked in for years with incumbent distributors.

(There’s a fascinating and important sidebar about what Bronny and other high school players should get from these content businesses built on their name, image, and social currency — particularly given that Bronny plays at a school in California, the epicenter of the burgeoning name/image/likeness compensation debate, taking place now at the college level. But we can save that topic for Nieman Lab Predictions for Journalism 2021.)

It isn’t just about Bronny and the billions on the line in the battle between streaming platforms. High school basketball is designed for — and consumed by — the younger audience coveted by incumbent media companies and brands. High school basketball (and other high school sports) offer opportunities at the regional and local level for media organizations to engage with a new audience, test social-native coverage plans, and even dabble in live games (or, at the very least, more in-depth high school coverage) as part of their own subscription packages. Every region has players to showcase and social currency to experiment with. There are tons of high school players that your audience — particularly your younger audience — wants to engage with, including a couple of superstars on the girls’ side like Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd. (And, coming soon, Kobe Bryant’s daughter Gigi who already draws breathless coverage of her own.)

If professional media operators don’t take advantage of the opportunity, high schools will take a cue from college and pro teams — and all those pro-am videographers on their baselines Friday nights — and create their own direct-to-consumer offerings, while well-funded youth-media startups stake wider claims on attention and relevance. It doesn’t need to be oppositional; there’s a huge range of opportunities for media orgs of every size and ambition. I recently volunteered some time to help a civic group organizing high school student journalists in the Chicago exurbs to cover the local teams — boys and girls, varsity and JV — in more depth, which both serves the community and bolsters the students’ journalism experience.

Heading into 2020, the DNA of intensive high school basketball coverage on Instagram, YouTube, and other non-traditional platforms is classic “shoe leather” observation, combined with modest cost requirements, new distribution platforms, and a seemingly limitless appetite from fans. 2020 won’t just be the year of Bronny — it’ll be the year when media organizations across the spectrum should invest further in the opportunity to experiment across the high school space.

Dan Shanoff is longtime sports-media content strategy and development executive.

Earlier this month, ESPN televised a high school basketball game between the alma mater of LeBron James and the current school of LeBron James Jr., otherwise known as “Bronny.” The game — and the hysteria around it, including the massive potential social media relevance for anyone shooting it into feeds everywhere — earned coverage from The New York Times, The Washington Post, ESPN itself, and a horde of credentialed media members.

Just a high school freshman, Bronny is already a one-name wonder in sports — on the same sports-celebrity trajectory as Serena, Tiger and, yes, LeBron.

Bronny also represents one of the biggest growth areas of sports media heading into 2020: high school basketball.

Bronny is his own beat:

  • He has 3.9 million followers on Instagram (not quite as many as his father’s 53.9 million, but a number that would make most NBA players — and media industry folks — envious). He has 300,000 followers on TikTok for now, but give it time.
  • ESPN’s live coverage of Bronny’s Sierra Canyon team is just the start; the network has more than a dozen of Bronny’s games on the schedule this year, everywhere from basic cable to its new ESPN+ over-the-top service.
  • And Bronny is the north star of an entire Gen Z-focused sports-media ecosystem of social platform dominance — by brands like Overtime (which in 2019 secured a $23 million Series B round from big-name VCs like Andreesen Horowitz and big-name NBA stars like Kevin Durant); B/R Hoops (owned by Warner Media’s Bleacher Report); Mars Reel (investors: LeBron, Drake, AT&T); LeBron’s own Uninterrupted; and a grassroots basketball “expanded universe” of unlimited smaller players whose legion of low-cost videographers assemble like paparazzi on the baseline of any high school basketball game featuring a buzzy player, everything captured and distributed on IG, Twitter, YouTube and Twitch.

What makes Bronny such an appealing investment for a media organization — beyond the attention he commands — is that as a freshman, he theoretically has more than 100 games remaining in his high school career, between his school team, his spring/summer appearances on Nike’s high-profile EYBL circuit, and other big events where he is sure to be the star. (Notably, most of the 2019 EYBL season was streamed on Twitch, accessible to all.)

It’s easy to imagine a world where sports media networks are shelling out tens of millions in rights fees to showcase Bronny’s games. In fact, I’d argue that it would make both editorial and business sense — for ESPN, DAZN (the most prominent sports media “direct-to-consumer” platform, which made huge strides in 2019), Amazon (either Prime Video or Twitch), WarnerMedia’s upcoming HBO Max, NBC’s Peacock OTT service, Verizon’s Yahoo Sports or even LeBron’s Uninterrupted — to tap into high school hoops star power and social relevance in a media landscape where NBA and college rights are both stratospheric and locked in for years with incumbent distributors.

(There’s a fascinating and important sidebar about what Bronny and other high school players should get from these content businesses built on their name, image, and social currency — particularly given that Bronny plays at a school in California, the epicenter of the burgeoning name/image/likeness compensation debate, taking place now at the college level. But we can save that topic for Nieman Lab Predictions for Journalism 2021.)

It isn’t just about Bronny and the billions on the line in the battle between streaming platforms. High school basketball is designed for — and consumed by — the younger audience coveted by incumbent media companies and brands. High school basketball (and other high school sports) offer opportunities at the regional and local level for media organizations to engage with a new audience, test social-native coverage plans, and even dabble in live games (or, at the very least, more in-depth high school coverage) as part of their own subscription packages. Every region has players to showcase and social currency to experiment with. There are tons of high school players that your audience — particularly your younger audience — wants to engage with, including a couple of superstars on the girls’ side like Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd. (And, coming soon, Kobe Bryant’s daughter Gigi who already draws breathless coverage of her own.)

If professional media operators don’t take advantage of the opportunity, high schools will take a cue from college and pro teams — and all those pro-am videographers on their baselines Friday nights — and create their own direct-to-consumer offerings, while well-funded youth-media startups stake wider claims on attention and relevance. It doesn’t need to be oppositional; there’s a huge range of opportunities for media orgs of every size and ambition. I recently volunteered some time to help a civic group organizing high school student journalists in the Chicago exurbs to cover the local teams — boys and girls, varsity and JV — in more depth, which both serves the community and bolsters the students’ journalism experience.

Heading into 2020, the DNA of intensive high school basketball coverage on Instagram, YouTube, and other non-traditional platforms is classic “shoe leather” observation, combined with modest cost requirements, new distribution platforms, and a seemingly limitless appetite from fans. 2020 won’t just be the year of Bronny — it’ll be the year when media organizations across the spectrum should invest further in the opportunity to experiment across the high school space.

Dan Shanoff is longtime sports-media content strategy and development executive.

A.J. Bauer   A fork in the road for conservative media

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Power to the people (on your audience team)

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Jeremy Gilbert and Jarrod Dicker   A call for collaboration between storytelling and tech

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The business we want, not the business we had

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Dannagal G. Young   Let’s disrupt the logic that’s driving Americans apart

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists get left behind in the industry’s decline

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Christa Scharfenberg   It’s time to make journalism a field that supports and respects women

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

M. Scott Havens   First-party data becomes media’s most important currency

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Errin Haines   Race and gender aren’t a 2020 story — they’re the story

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Nicholas Jackson   What’s left of local gets comfortable with reader support

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Linda Solomon Wood   Everyone in your organization, moving toward a common goal

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

John Garrett   It’s the best time in a century to start a local news organization

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Zizi Papacharissi   A president leads, the press follows, reality fades

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

Matt DeRienzo   Local broadcasters begin to fill the gaps left by newspapers

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

L. Gordon Crovitz   Fighting misinformation requires journalism, not secret algorithms

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Madelyn Sanfilippo and Yafit Lev-Aretz   News coverage gets geo-fragmented

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Raney Aronson-Rath   News deserts will proliferate — but so will new solutions

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Margarita Noriega   The platforms try to figure out what to do with single-subject newsrooms

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

Kevin Douglas Grant   The free press stands against authoritarians’ attacks on truth

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Irving Washington   Leadership isn’t something you learn on the job

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Nico Gendron   Make better products if you want to reach Gen Z

Millie Tran   Wicked

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

Carrie Brown-Smith   Engaged journalism: It’s finally happening

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action

Joanne McNeil   A return to blogs (finally? sort of?)

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Lucas Graves   A smarter conversation about how (and why) fact-checking matters

Jim Brady   We’ll complain about other people living in bubbles while ignoring our own

Bill Adair   A Nobel Prize, a Brad Pitt film, and a Taylor Swift song

Joshua Darr   All that campaign cash will make the media’s problems worse

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Laura E. Davis   Know the context your journalism is operating within

Richard J. Tofel   A constraint of the reader-revenue model emerges

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

Elizabeth Hansen and Jesse Holcomb   Local news initiatives run into a capital shortage

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

Rachel Davis Mersey   The business of local TV news will enter its downward slide

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, collaboration in a time of state attacks

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Marie Gilot   This is fine

An Xiao Mina   The Forum we wanted, the forum we got

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Cory Haik   We’re already consuming the future of news — now we have to produce it

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Kourtney Bitterly   Transparency isn’t just a desire, it’s an expectation