Bleacher Report launch animated Champions League ‘Reality TV’ show, The Champions

The Champions League is back this week and it’s back with a bang. As Tottenham play that great old name of European competition, Inter Milan, and Liverpool play Paris Saint-Germain there’s a lot to love about the first week of the group stages.

In the USA, there’s been a bit of a rights shake up as Turner Media, owner of Bleacher Report grabbed the rights to the competition from Fox, and the games will be shown by the publisher in an important move for football rights in the country – and one that could be seminal for digital media streaming of live premium rights all around the world.

To coincide with that exciting news, however, Bleacher Report have come up with a content series to tie in with the Champions League this season, and in many ways, they’re doing what they do best – an animated series placing the biggest names of this European season into a reality TV style setting, putting them altogether inside a The Bachelor-style house: called The Champions.

“There’s a lot of parallels with the reality TV world and the modern 21st century footballer,” says Lee Walker Bleacher Report’s Head of Editorial in the UK. “That was the canvas, and it’s going to be a loose one – there’ll be an opportunity to manoeuver things that are generally associated with reality TV without being directly focused on one.”

“We now are the TV rights holder for the Champions League and we’ve launched the BR football show to support what we’ve done digitally, and over the last few years we’re really building a huge social engagement on our accounts and our app so we thought what better time to launch this series than when the Champions League starts.”

Turning Bleacher Report into a worldwide publishing behemoth of the digital age has culminated in grabbing the rights to a top tier sporting event this season, but actually getting the supporting content right is one of the harder parts now. Beyond just showing the games, entertaining fans and supplementing their viewing is paramount, and that’s what The Champions aims to do.

“We really focus on soccer alongside basketball and American football as a company, and the other two sports have had great success with their animation series: Game of Zones and Gridiron Heights, so we wanted to get a soccer version going. The beauty of Gridiron Heights and Game of Zones and why they’re so popular is the quality of the writing.”

To that end, Bleacher Report worked with the Malamut brothers, the writers behind the hit shows in the other sports, to find Andy Haynes, a stand-up comic who’s worked with the likes of Jimmy Fallon and US talk shows and who is (“most importantly” according to Walker) a big football fan.

The football content business is getting more and more saturated online. There’s always been a huge number of sites doing news and opinion around football, but increasingly the video space is becoming crowded. On demand content around the sport is probably at an all-time high with podcasts, talk shows, and all sorts of other pieces of content – such as Amazon’s recent documentary with Manchester City – are springing up and competing with the big sites for the audience’s attention.

That means quality is king, and hitting the right note is paramount, especially when it comes to trying to imbue comedy or humour into sport. More and more, sport is a form of entertainment like any other, but there’s obviously an added emotion when it comes to following your team, and that’s why ensuring that he writers know sport – rather than just knowing comedy – is so important.

“If you go on any of the comments on Gridiron Heights or Game of Zones you get people commenting and saying ‘does everyone pause this every three seconds to get all the jokes?’ So laden in both those shows and also in The Champions will be easter eggs, those subtle background references that have people pausing and sharing, so it’s absolutely pivotal that we have that.”

“Everything that you might have stumbled across that’s gone viral in the last few years, there may be a subtle nod to that in the show.”

There are parallels with The Guardian’s popular David Squires cartoons, and to a UK audience as well as a US one, that nod to football’s funny stories will be appealing, and Bleacher Report’s joined up thinking is placing football, and the Champions League in particular, up there with the NBA and NFL in their content hierarchy. For fans of the sport in the US, that can only be a great thing.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 810 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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