Professional athletes continue to do it for themselves when it comes to creating original media content.
The biggest brand in that landscape is probably The Players Tribune, backed by Derek Jeter’s star power, venture capital funding and the occasional ability to break news, such as when Mets pitcher Matt Harvey (the site’s New York Bureau Chief) wrote a column saying that he would pitch in the playoffs, rather than shut himself down once he reached an innings limit. TPT is making a big push into video production with its “The Players POV,” “Singular Focus,” and “From Somewhere” series.
In recent weeks, VICE Sports has also launched The Clubhouse, a sports channel with athletes producing their own videos. In addition to other endeavors, such as Bleacher Report’s Uninterrupted and The Cauldron also providing first-hand accounts from sports stars, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of outlets for athletes to control their message, express themselves and tell stories to which the media either hasn’t or won’t pay attention.
But NFL players have decided to provide a forum for themselves anyway. On Monday, the NFL Players Association announced the creation of a new company geared toward creating original content focusing on not just football players, but athletes in all sports. The venture is called Athlete Content & Entertainment (or ACE Media), and will initially be powered by the 1,800 athletes the NFLPA has at its disposal. The union will be a majority shareholder in the company.
(My initial thought was that ACE Media might cause confusion with Adam Carolla’s ACE Broadcasting Network, which produces a slate of seven podcasts. But the name of that company was changed to Carolla Media in 2012. So we won’t get to see Carolla take on the NFLPA, which could have been highly entertaining, if a likely mismatch.)
ACE Media has already formed partnerships with several channels and websites to distribute its programming, including BET Networks, Bleacher Report, The Players Tribune and 120 Sports. Interestingly, NFL Network nor the league’s TV partners were mentioned among these partners. Producers Ed Cunningham and Seth Gordon (The King of Kong, Undefeated, Finders Keepers) are among those lined up to work on ACE Media films. In addition to interview and first-person documentaries, content will range from scripted and unscripted television series to animated and youth-targeted programming.
Scott Langerman, who has held executive positions with Comcast SportsNet, Turner Broadcasting and Vox Media will be the company’s CEO.
“As professional athletes we have a huge opportunity to offer unbelievable levels of access and authenticity to the fans that support us,” Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman said in a statement. “With the launch of ACE Media, we now have a way to seize that opportunity by creating content that no one else can, showing sides of ourselves that you won’t see anywhere else. We’re excited about the content we plan to help create, and we’re excited by the future of this company.”