There’s a new NBA show out there from Gilbert Arenas and Josiah Johnson, and it’s coming from an interesting company. That would be Underdog Fantasy Sports. In addition to their main paid fantasy business, they’ve added a collection of athlete-curated shows, including Cut To It (hosted by former NFL star Steve Smith Sr.) and That’s What Sheed Said (hosted by former NBA star Rasheed Wallace). And now, they’ve added Gil’s Arena, which shoots from a basketball-themed set built in Arenas’ basement and features him, Johnson, and a variety of recurring guests. The show launched this week: here’s the first episode, featuring the hosts and Brandon Jennings discussing this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend:
Underdog VP of content Tim Livingston spoke to AA via email, and said Arenas and Johnson (who also work together on No Chill with Fubo Sports Network) were perfect fits for what his company is trying to do.
“Gilbert was a second-round pick that worked tirelessly to become one of the best players in the NBA. Josiah spent years grinding on social media to become the ‘King of NBA Twitter.’ Gilbert and Josiah have an incredible dynamic—they’re the perfect blend of analysis and humor—and they represent the values we look for at Underdog. They paved their own path in media, never compromising their values, knowing they would never wear a suit and tie on TV. Gil’s Arena is the culmination of their hustle, and we believe basketball fans will embrace them with open arms.”
Livingston said the basketball-themed set and the lineup of recurring guests (which includes Wallace, Jennings, WNBA champion Lexie Brown, and UNC legend Rashad McCants) reinforces that approach.
“We want the audience to feel like they’re sitting on the couch talking basketball with Gilbert, Josiah, Brandon Jennings, Lexie Brown, Rasheed Wallace, Rashad McCants, and the rest of the cast. Converting Gilbert’s basement into what we believe is the coolest basketball set in the world puts guests at ease — they’re talking with their peers in a laid back environment, fully comfortable in ‘the arena.'”
That lineup of regular guests will add some new elements to the show, and they’ll be joined by other prominent guests from time to time.
“We felt like the perspectives of Brandon, Lexie, Rasheed, and Rashad perfectly complimented Gilbert and Josiah and we jumped at the opportunity to make them permanent fixtures,” Livingston said. “In addition to our recurring talent, we’ll also have A-level NBA talent making guest appearances throughout the year.”
This builds on Underdog’s previous athlete-hosted shows with Smith and Wallace. Livingston said he thinks that area of content has real opportunity for the company.
“We believe there’s a big opportunity giving athletes with really interesting POVs—Steve Smith Sr., Rasheed, and Gilbert—a platform where they can be their authentic selves and not have to deal with the barriers and bureaucracy of traditional media. Our content is all geared for YouTube and social and we’ve been able to garner tens of millions of views on YouTube over the last five months through Steve and Rasheed. We’re confident Gilbert will grow that audience exponentially and we plan on continuing to look for content opportunities with former athletes who are authentic and only know how to offer opinions sans filter.”
Livingston said one key goal of their content is to boost the company brand and get their paid fantasy games on the radar for more people.
“We put a lot of time and effort into building the Underdog brand. Our goal in producing high-quality original content is to build an audience that we can organically introduce to our games. At the end of the day we’re a product/technology company—our games are the best in the space—original content that’s both entertaining and informative provides a means to introduce millions of people to Best Ball and Pick ‘Em.”
As for what success for Gil’s Arena will look like, Livingston said the target is adoption by the basketball internet.
“It’s abstract, but we want Gil’s Arena to become part of ‘the culture.’ We’re trying to give basketball fans something different — no suit and ties, no choreographed arguments, no guys who never played basketball telling fans about things they really don’t know s*** about. We’ll know the show is a success when the basketball internet embraces it.”
[Gil’s Arena on YouTube]