Bleacher Report Turns to Dodgeball as Influencers Grow Fans and Revenue
Logan Paul isn’t the only digital creator stepping into sports. On June 18, 20 online personalities will compete in a dodgeball tournament, as sports media organizations continue experimenting with Gen Z-oriented events.
The tournament will be the third installment of the House of Highlights Showdown franchise, which previously featured golf and basketball knockout shows. The company has also created a YouTube channel to highlight the creator programming, which it plans to expand.
House of Highlights owner Bleacher Report said the knockout event generated the company’s most-watched live stream and that content from the two competitions has garnered more than 100 million views across online platforms. Coverage and promotion are also being integrated into TNT’s broadcasts of the NBA playoffs, as Turner Sports links its sister brands. Pizza Hut is sponsoring the event, with additional monetization coming from merchandise.
House of Highlights general manager Doug Bernstein said the strategy stemmed from creator-based content performing as well, if not better, than traditional sports clips. More than 70% of Gen Z and Millennials follow a so-called influencer online, Morning Consult found, which is roughly double the number when it comes to pro athletes and leagues, Bernstein said.
“Creator competition is a new category unto itself, almost akin to esports,” Bernstein said.
In developing the events, HoH has prioritized relatability (putting on backyard games like knockout and dodgeball) as well as community, giving fans a voice in rule creation and emphasizing comments during the games.
“We also try to maximize action,” Bernstein said. “That’s a struggle traditional sports are having, with very long broadcasts and not as much action throughout the whole thing.” The team has tried to avoid the old-school structures of quarters and clocks, hoping their newest event will run around 90 minutes.
Early estimates for Paul’s exhibition fight against Floyd Mayweather Sunday suggest they sold more than $30 million worth of pay-per-views in the U.S. alone. Last year, MrBeast’s Creator Games became YouTube’s most-watched live original of all time. While none of the dodgeball players have Paul’s mainstream recognition, those involved have a combined online following of over 70 million. The four teams—FaZe Clan, 2Hype, RDCWorld and AMP—will compete bracket-style on Warner Bros.’s L.A. studio lot, with $300,000 on the line. HoH’s Lucas Brody and Nelson Vergara will host the action live on YouTube.
“It’s not just the Yankees, Red Sox, Cowboys and Lakers anymore; these creator groups are really starting to develop a very similar fandom around them,” Bernstein said. “This is an extension of Turner Sports wanting to be the home of premium live sports and conversation…. We’re taking a similar approach with these creator competitions and saying, ‘Hey, this is still premium sports. It’s just for a younger audience on a different platform.”
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