Getting a six-year-old to step away from a screen in favor of a picture book might be a long shot. But Steph Curry is used to those.
Unanimous Publishing, the book-focused arm of Curry’s Unanimous Media, released its first project Tuesday: I Have a Superpower, a child’s picture book written by Curry. And Unanimous co-founder Erick Peyton said it won’t be Curry’s last entreaty to the youth. The company is already working on a follow-up to the book, and thinking about how the property could translate to video as well.
“Myself and Stephen have young kids,” Peyton said in an interview. “We look at I Have a Superpower and the publishing vertical as really trying to reach those young kids… And there will be more things coming.”
Athletes have proven that their media brands can rise above a crowded field; just look at Unanimous, LeBron James’ SpringHill and Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions, to name a few. But kids’ content may represent a whole new ball game.
Late last year, Moonbug Entertainment, a global kids’ entertainment company, sold at a nearly $3 billion valuation off the back of properties such as CoComelon and Blippi, kicking off a kids IP acquisition spree. Fox Entertainment acquired the rights to Gumby in February while Dr. Seuss’ IP was reported to be on the market as of this spring. Netflix, meanwhile, is developing multiple Roald Dahl projects after acquiring the brand to help it compete with Disney’s onslaught of kids favorites. And of course, each company has to battle with the rapidly growing video game market for (developing) mindshare.
While streamers appear increasingly money-conscious this year, they’re often expanding rather than cutting kids divisions, as the category has proven to drive customer acquisition and retention. And Curry and Peyton are well aware of the competition. “You have to create such a magical and fantastical world because there’s so many choices,” Peyton said. “A kid can just go play Roblox.”
Increasingly, those choices include athlete-driven media. Curry is also working on kids-focused content as part of his deal with Comcast NBCUniversal, and recently announced a Snapchat show. SpringHill has produced a kids docuseries for Disney+, where Giannis Antetokounmpo executive produced a recent movie based on his life story. Eli Manning is EP’ing an upcoming animated series about a quarterback with a magic arm. Derek Jeter helped lead the way when he announced Jeter Publishing in 2013 with a mission that included creating children’s picture books. Along with writer and illustrator Tom Booth, the imprint has since released several titles.
“(Youth content) is a massive side of the business,” Excel Sports Management head of content Ryan Holcomb said in an interview. “Obviously entire brands have been built off appealing to this demo.”
Developing youth fare is something that specifically appeals to parents who are athletes; as they aim to present their lives on social media, parenthood often leeches into their brand. “A lot of the talent that does things that gravitate towards a younger audience,” Holcomb said, “they do it because, in general, it’s because they have a family of their own.… Then it makes more inherent sense that they’re doing stuff in this space.”
And while today’s youngsters might not have fond memories of Eli’s 2007 Super Bowl or Jeter’s 2000 World Series triumph, many of their parents likely do. “The parent is looking for good programming that they can trust right off the surface.… [if] Peyton Manning’s name’s on it and they know Peyton Manning’s brand, they know he’s not going to do something that is going to surprise them,” Holcomb said.
Active players like Curry and Giannis, on the other hand, do have legions of young followers. And by creating content for them, those superstars are setting themselves up to maintain lifelong connections with those consumers.
“Truth be told, we’ve been working on the kids vertical for a while, and now we’ve started to create some momentum,” Peyton said. “So I’m really excited to see where it goes.”