Why ESPN is going big on basketball

ESPN is doubling down on basketball content. For good reason. Millennials love basketball.

About a quarter — 26% — of NBA fans are between the ages of 18-34, according to the Simmons National Consumer Study.

The coveted demographic could give ESPN a leg up with advertisers and brands.

That’s likely why ESPN’s plans to launch four new basketball-centric projects this season.

“The NBA has a young, diverse audience that we can reach digitally,” said Connor Schell, ESPN’s executive vice president of content. “We’re totally excited about the content, the sport, the health of the game, the stars within the sport. The content [we’re creating] resonates with our audience across platforms.”

The lineup includes “Detail,” which features Kobe Bryant giving in-depth analysis of the current playoffs, and “Basketball: A Love Story,” a 63-part series of shorts featuring the sport’s biggest names. There’s also “Year One,” a show about NBA rookies, and “The Last Dance,” 10-hour docu-series about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s.

Social media will help the NBA content reach more viewers, too.

The NBA also has the largest footprint of any sports league on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube with nearly 65 million combined followers. That’s about 25 million more than the NFL and 50 million more than Major League Baseball.

The NBA’s influence on social media only continues to grow. Since the end of the 2016-17 regular season, the league added 100 million new social media followers.

The NBA’s stars are recognizable, likable and marketable.

Among Millennials, nine of the 13 most well-known current athletes are NBA players, according to Marketing Evaluations, which tracks consumer preferences.

The most followed American athlete also happens to be a basketball player: LeBron James has over 100 million followers on social media.