SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MARCH 16: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors warms up before the game against the Boston Celtics on March 16, 2022 at the Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: You expressly acknowledge and agree that by downloading or using this photo, you agree to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Required Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Golden State Warriors go to Hollywood.
The Northern California NBA franchise announced Monday the launch of Golden State Entertainment, or GSE. The new division will create licensed documentary content, produce music and host non-basketball live events in the Bay Area.
The team’s chief legal officer, David Kelly, will oversee the division as its chief commercial officer.
The Warriors want to leverage the team’s brand outside of sports, “telling the stories of people who shape the culture and move it,” Kelly told CNBC in an interview.
GSE will launch with documentaries summarizing the stories of two former NBA guards, but was unable to reveal 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 lives in South Korea, is already a member of the Warriors.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 7: Thai singer-songwriter BamBam preforms during halftime of the Golden State Warriors game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Chase Center on April 7, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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“The Warriors understand that we’re already committed to storytelling. We’re already deeply embedded in the 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 is 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, whether you’re talking about content in the form of music, whether you’re talking about content in the form of movies, the ability to generate content that speaks to people will always be central.”
Warriors president and COO Brandon Schneider told CNBC that the franchise considered creating GSE before the COVID pandemic brought sports to a halt in March 2020.
The plan accelerated after seeing the success of “The Last Dance”, the series that shows the last season of Michael Jordan 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 to see it.”
The Warriors are prepared to use their experience and access to meet fan 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 documentaries with the Warriors’ biggest star, Stephen Curry, at least not yet. According to Kelly, the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement language restricts the team from licensing additional content on active NBA players.
Once Curry retires, expect GSE to approach him with opportunities to create content. (Curry is 34 years old and is not expected to retire any time 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 limited to Warriors stories,” Kelly said.
GSE would not take the direct-to-consumer route when it comes to distribution, Kelly said. Instead, the Warriors will look to license GSE content for streaming platforms like Netflix.
The money from those rights should increase the annual income of the Warriors, who lead the NBA. The team earned more than $400 million in 2021, according to Forbes.
The Warriors’ $5.6 billion valuation puts them just behind the NBA’s most valuable team, the New York Knicks, who 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 also be a media and technology organization, Kelly said.
“We’re not just a sports team,” he said. “So it’s up to us to clarify what that means.”