Bleacher Report Producing Pilot Highlighting Pro Athletes' Gaming Setups (Exclusive)

Battlestations - Publicity still - H 2019
Courtesy Bleacher Report

'Battlestations' will showcase the personal video game rooms of stars from the NBA and beyond, hosted by esports star Doug "Censor" Martin.

Sports media company Bleacher Report is branching into more longer-form content with the development of its first pilot co-produced by creative studio Kids at Play. Battlestations, a new show that showcases the expansive (and expensive) video game setups of professional traditional sports athletes, is the first project in the company's new piloting strategy that uses real-time data from Bleacher Report's substantial audience base to measure performance and inform creative decisions. 

"Esports and gaming are a hugely popular part of what our audience is consuming," Sam Toles, chief creative officer at Bleacher Report, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We're taking two very popular audience segments and crossing streams, to use a Ghostbusters analogy."

Toles joined the company in March after serving as senior vp digital and new platforms at MGM and senior vp and general manager at Vimeo before that.

Bleacher Report, primarily known for its coverage of traditional sports like football, basketball and baseball, has branched more and more into creative content recently, producing documentaries such as Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story (which Showtime acquired the rights to in April) and Take it There with Taylor Rooks as well as animated series like Game of Zones and The Champions.

Battlestations combines two segments of Bleacher Report's audience (which registers 1.2 billion monthly video views and an app that has been downloaded by more than 20 million users): gamers and traditional sports fans. Hosted by Doug “Censor” Martin — an esports star, four-time Call of Duty national champion, current roster player for esports brand Andbox and former co-owner of competitive gaming organization FaZe Clan — the show is a docuseries that features professional athletes showing off their personal game rooms. The pilot episode features New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard Josh Hart and Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox.

"The idea came from us working with a 'mini' writers room to figure out how to incorporate sports and video games and do it without feeling like [MTV's celebrity real estate series] Cribs," says Kids at Play co-founder Jason Berger. "The nice thing is that we’ve been working with big-name athletes before, so we were able to call people we already have relationships with."

Berger and his Kids at Play team worked closely with Bleacher Report to find talent that had "resonance" with its audience. "We gave Jason our wishlist and he did his magic," Toles says.

Battlestations' pilot episode features two 11-minute segments — one in Fox's house, one at Hart's — and will be distributed by Bleacher Report through its own channels, but Toles, whose company is owned by WarnerMedia, is keeping the door open for distribution partnership open. 

"It could be repurposed for more traditional, linear media platforms," he says. "The show was initially produced for our platform, but it will be a great show and I don’t want to predetermine the destiny of it."

Toles and his team will determine the success of the show through data acquired through Bleacher Report's audience. "Hundreds of thousands or millions of views would be great, but the depth of engagement is a stronger indicator," Toles says. "It's hard to create mass audience to watch something that no one has been exposed to previously."

In addition to Battlestations, Bleacher Report is also working on a number of other projects, though Toles remains mum on the specifics. "There are several in the ideation phase and others are further down the line," he says. "My big focus is on getting the right team members."