Bleacher Report chief content officer Sam Toles also spoke to AA about this deal this week, and said this extension was logical for them given all Lefkoe has brought to the table for B/R.
“Adam has been an integral part of Bleacher Report for many years. He’s just become such a foundational element to our talent pool, which is growing. And we’ve seen Adam grow; he’s been doing some work on TNT for us, we had an amazing, amazing response to Ditch The Playbook this year, coming out of Simms and Lefkoe. He is a unique talent that we were just thrilled to have seen evolve at Bleacher Report. And that evolution obviously warranted us investing in a significant extension for him. So we’re thrilled to be continuing the relationship for the next three years and hopefully we see some tremendous things.”
Toles said NBA on TNT Tuesday is a showcase for Lefkoe, and also a reflection of the growing emphasis on collaboration across Turner Sports and Bleacher Report.
“It’s a huge opportunity for him and a great way for B/R and Turner Sports to sort of cross streams and integrate talent that we’ve been instrumental in developing with talent that they’ve developed for the linear size of the business,” Toles said. “As WarnerMedia was acquired by AT&T, the message was synergy, and I, being brand new to the organization, have really embraced that, as has Howard [Mittman], our new CEO. We’ve both taken it upon ourselves to really lean into the broader corporate mandate of finding ways to to really connect these organizations in every possible way to maximize resources that we’re all collectively expending.”
“And so when we think about that as it relates to talent, it’s perfectly natural to find ways to take benefit from the talent that we’re nurturing and growing, that has exposure to our audience, that cares about our younger audience. That audience loves Adam and loves the stuff that he does for Bleacher Report; moving that into television is a great benefit to TNT and Turner Sports’ organization as a whole.”
Those synergies work both ways, too. NBA on TNT Tuesdays will also feature Wade, who signed a deal with Warner Media last month that includes NBA on TNT and NCAA tournament work, a development deal for his production company, and a creative director role at Bleacher Report. Toles said that deal illustrates the advantages B/R gets from being in the larger WarnerMedia family.
“Having the colossal talent of Dwyane Wade coming on and being our creative director and being willing to do projects for the Bleacher Report audience is a huge win that a smaller digital enterprise could never in a million years hope to achieve. That gives us tremendous benefit as well. So it really is a focus of the organization to think about how we can strategically align where it makes sense; share our audience, share our talent, and share our ambition for the greater good.”
Toles said that it’s still important for TNT and B/R to keep focusing on how best to serve each of their audiences, though.
“The TNT team and my team are separate as far as who they’re serving and why. Our audience is a digital native audience, so it’s somewhat younger than the linear audience, and so the needs are different. We definitely have our own distinct voice that we each curate and cultivate. But that doesn’t create a wall, nor does it prevent synergy from happening.”
He said he thinks Lefkoe and Wade are examples of talents that can bring a lot to both B/R and TNT.
“You look at a talent like Adam or a talent like Dwyane Wade, they have the potential to speak to both a linear audience and a digital audience, provided that the creative team is giving them direction to understand and own the sensibilities of our distinct worlds. So I think that’s how we think about it; maximize audience, cross your audience over where there’s opportunity, but keeping creative pure for the purposes of who Bleacher Report is versus who TNT is.”
And Toles said there are plenty of other B/R talents who are doing great things there, and who may be able to contribute more across different platforms in the future.
“You think about Master’s growth; we hired Master Tesfatsion as a as a feature writer coming out of The Washington Post and he has shown tremendous promise with his new show, Untold Stories which has just blown up in a way that is incredibly pleasing. Howard Beck with his podcast, Taylor Rooks has been doing some work already on the TV side and has been working across the organization, really amplifying our social voice, and her show was a tremendous success so we will get a lot more out of her, Mike Freeman, Mirin Fader, Jonathan Abrams, Tyler Dunne have done incredible stories.”
“And one of the focuses that we’re really excited about here is adding video more and more as our storytelling evolves in the tech space; having them participate in how that evolves is incredibly important to how we think about our storytelling here. So when we think about all of our talent, it’s really important to maximize their contributions first to Bleacher Report, but ultimately giving them the highest possible ceiling. Everybody is a part of the Warner Media/AT&T family, and there’s no organization, I think, in media that offers more opportunity to grow for talent then does this organization as a whole. And we’re embracing that wholeheartedly.”
Of course, doing a NBA show on TNT obviously carries some comparisons and some challenges considering the established success of Inside The NBA. Lefkoe said he got the chance to hang out with the Inside The NBA crew last year while hosting a Twitter show for Turner, and that helped him appreciate what they do even more.
“Last year, I actually flew down to Atlanta pretty much once a week, and I’d be in there on Tuesdays doing the NBA Twitter show, and that would be with a mix of characters. And I think what was special about it was while the games were going on, in between our Twitter broadcasts, I would sit with the Inside The NBA guys. So I’d watch a game alongside Charles [Barkley], or I’d sit next to Shaq and Kenny [Smith] and hear them debating Rockets-Lakers. One time I got a chance to sit with Ernie [Johnson] in his office and watch how he consumes a game. And when you get to see that process and you get to understand how much work goes in behind the scenes to make it seem so effortless on screen, you understand what makes it special.”
Lefkoe said he’s hoping to take some of what works for Inside The NBA, but also bring some twists to make the Tuesday show unique.
“I’m still going to be learning, because they have figured out the sauce and the recipe is great. I just kind of want to add my own personal flavor to it, while at the same time really understanding and respecting that what they built has in my mind changed broadcasting.”
Overall, Lefkoe said getting this chance to do NBA on TNT Tuesdays is a dream, and one that had him pause to think about the road to this point.
“There’s moments where you look at your career and you put your head down and you keep grinding. All the wins, people come up to you and they say you’re doing great, and you believe it, but you just keep going. This is one of those moments where I’ve actually had to kind of take a step back and realize what’s happening.”
[Top photo via The Lefkoe Show on B/R’s YouTube channel]