SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MARCH 16: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors warms up prior to the game against the Boston Celtics on March 16, 2022 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Golden State Warriors are going Hollywood.
The Northern California NBA franchise on Monday announced the launch of Golden State Entertainment, or GSE. The new division will create licensed documentary content, produce music and hold nonbasketball live events in the Bay Area.
The team’s top legal executive, David Kelly, will oversee the division as its chief business officer.
The Warriors want to leverage the team’s brand outside of sports, “telling the stories of people that shape culture and move culture,” Kelly told CNBC in an interview.
GSE will launch with documentaries recapping the stories of two former NBA guards but couldn’t reveal the names as the deals are still being finalized.
“It’s a story that needs to be told,” Kelly said of one of the films.
GSE will also release a new single featuring K-pop star BamBam. The musician, who is Thai but is based in South Korea, is already partners with the Warriors.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 07: Thai singer and songwriter BamBam preforms during the halftime of the Golden State Warriors game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Chase Center on April 07, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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“The Warriors understand that we are already engaged in storytelling. We’re already deeply ingrained in culture,” said Kelly, who has worked with the Warriors for more than 10 years and is the team’s salary cap specialist. “How do we tell stories and develop original content that goes deeper than before.”
“Content is king,” he said. “Whether you’re talking about content in the form of games, whether you’re talking about content in the form of music, in the form of films – the ability to generate content that speaks to people will always be central.”
Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Brandon Schneider told CNBC the franchise considered creating GSE before the Covid pandemic halted sports in March 2020.
The plan accelerated after seeing the success of “The Last Dance,” the series showcasing Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls. That documentary aired in the early days of the pandemic and averaged 6.1 million viewers in the first two episodes of the 10-part series.
“We learned a lot,” Schneider said. “We were all captivated by watching it.”
The Warriors are prepared to put their expertise and access to use to satisfy fans’ demand for similar content, which would be an expansion of what the team has already done for years, Schneider added.
But GSE won’t be able to create documents featuring the Warriors’ biggest star, Stephen Curry – at least not yet. Language in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement restricts the team from licensing additional content around active NBA players, according to Kelly.
Once Curry retires, expect GSE to approach him with opportunities to create content. (Curry is 34 and isn’t expected to retire soon.)
“We want to tell some Warriors stories, and we think we’re well-positioned to be able to tell those stories, but we’re not limiting ourselves to Warriors stories,” Kelly said.
GSE wouldn’t go the direct-to-consumer route when it comes to distribution, Kelly said. Instead, the Warriors will look to license GSE’s content to streaming platforms such as Netflix.
The money from those rights should increase the Warriors’ annual revenue, which leads the NBA. The team made more than $400 million in 2021, according to Forbes.
The Warriors’ $5.6 billion valuation puts them right behind the most valuable NBA team, the New York Knicks, which have a $5.8 billion valuation. Kelly hopes the new entertainment division will catapult Golden State ahead of New York.
Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob wants the franchise to be a media and tech organization, too, Kelly said.
“We’re not just a sports team,” he said. “So, it’s incumbent upon us to flush out what that means.”