YouTube announced today that it’s enlisted the help of basketball star Kevin Durant in a bid to expand original sports content. The Golden State Warriors small forward and business partner Rich Kleiman have signed on to develop programming centered around Durant and fellow professional athletes under the umbrella of their Thirty Five Media video business.
Durant’s interest in investing turned to tech when he moved to the Bay Area to play for The Warriors in 2016. As Durant and Kleiman put it during an appearance onstage at Disrupt last September, “We’d never have been introduced to a drone startup in Oklahoma City.”
According to Kleiman, Durant began to take YouTube more seriously after meeting Neal Mohan at a Ben Horowitz-hosted party in honor of the basketball all-star’s 28th birthday. YouTube’s head of product introduced him to the platform’s potential for content delivery beyond the standard highlight reels he was accustomed to watching on the site.
“Kevin always wanted to produce original content and wanted to produce shows, but we didn’t realize what direction it would take until then,” says Kleiman.
In the intervening months, Durant’s YouTube channel has grown into a destination for basketball fans, giving the player a direct venue to interact with fans through Q&As and offer up documentary-style productions aimed at offering insight into the life of an all-star professional basketball player. In less than a year, it’s racked up north of 21 million views.
“Outside of the incredible relationship that we’ve developed with the team at YouTube,” Durant told TechCrunch, “it’s a huge destination for video content where sports fans — including myself — spend a lot of time, and we really wanted to create content where fans are most likely to find and engage with it.”
Durant and Thirty Five Media began reaching out to fellow players prior to the deal. Warriors teammate JaVale McGee was given his own show on Durant’s channel. Parking Lot Chronicles is a play on the traditional post-game interview that finds the center moderating conversations with fellow Warriors outside of Oracle Arena.
That series will continue to be hosted on Durant’s channel, along with an upcoming show featuring actor/basketball super fan, Michael Rapaport. “We’re looking to build Kevin’s channel as a real network for himself and trying to encourage more athletes to look at it as a hub for their content, and look at it as their own Bleacher Report or ESPN,” says Kleiman. “And we’ll look to produce content to live on all of these different channels.”
Kleiman says the content for the channels will be a mix of high-production values from Thirty Five Media and more direct, raw video, depending on the needs and desires of a given partner athlete.
Durant, for his part, plans to remain involved in the undertaking. “I will have an active role both in my channel and in working with other athletes,” he explains. “I’ve seen what resonates with fans and I know how to achieve that while focusing on my job as an athlete first and foremost, and I’m excited to help others be able to do the same thing.”