Ballislife Gets Interactive With Facebook Live Streams

Basketball-themed site aims to differentiate itself with community-driven features

Having the right partner makes all the difference. Thanks to a chance meeting, Ballislife is thriving on Facebook Live, making money from sponsorships and engaging new fans.

A home for fans of high school basketball, Ballislife started in 2005 when then 19-year-old founder Matt Rodriguez started the site for the game he loved. Over the years, the Irvine, CA-based company has grown (it now has an apparel line) and primarily uses YouTube to distribute its exclusive videos. With nearly 900,000 followers on its YouTube channel, YouTube Live might seem like a natural extension for the site, but Ballislife is finding live-streaming success on Facebook.

A friend of the site, RantSports founder Grant Brown convinced Rodriguez that he needed to pay more attention to Facebook and tap into its social-networking abilities. That was the push Rodriguez and his team needed to experiment with Facebook Live.

Ballislife might cover amateur athletics, but its broadcasts are thoroughly professional. The site contracts Orange County, CA-based David Otta Productions to produce four- to six-camera shoots. Although competitors are content to position one camera at the top of the bleachers and call it a day, Rodriguez says, he wants his videos to be as close to TV-broadcast quality as possible.

For its first Facebook Live broadcast, Ballislife selected an event it knows well: the 2017 Ballislife All-American Game in Long Beach, CA. This was the site’s seventh year streaming it, with previous feeds going to CBS Sports and YouTube.

Among the interactive features Ballislife adds to its live stream are on-screen trivia questions.

This is where that chance meeting comes in. Rodriguez attended Facebook’s F8 developer conference in April and happened to talk with the Vidpresso team at its booth. Vidpresso provides interactive features for live streams, and that sounded exactly like what Ballislife needed to set itself apart and engage its younger viewers. Vidpresso lets broadcasters add polls, quizzes, and viewer comments to their content. Although Vidpresso is set up for single-camera streams, the company’s small team gave Ballislife the attention it needed to pull off multicamera productions.

With its high-quality production and Vidpresso’s interactive features, Ballislife found success right away on Facebook. It used live polling to make the game’s dunk contest interactive and had viewers get involved in the game-MVP selection.

Ballislife and event sponsor Eastbay were thrilled with the numbers. The broadcast had 162,000 total unique viewers with 3,800 peak live views. Its interactive features led to more than 25,000 engagements. The event was created with Facebook’s branded-content tools, so Eastbay got direct access to event metrics.

For Rodriguez, differentiating his product from the competition is critical.

There are other businesses that do live streams within the sports genre, even in the basketball genre. Many of them sit behind a paywall. Many of them are one-camera setups, driven by a business model that isn’t targeted at a wide audience but just at the smaller audience willing to pay for content that, “in my eyes, isn’t really premium,” Rodriguez says. “We want to make sure that we stand out compared to the other live streams. The Facebook platform is very community-driven, and we wanted to keep that in mind when we do our live stream.”

Ballislife’s second Facebook Live event was the Compton Magic Memorial Day Festival, a smaller event that enabled it to get some experience with the platform. It pulled in more than 64,000 viewers and streamed 71,000 minutes of video.

Its third and most recent event was the Pangos All-American Camp Top 30 Game on June 4. The highly influential camp features an end-of-camp game featuring its top 30 players. Player selection is done at the last minute, so even the players don’t know if they’re playing until game day. Ballislife promoted the stream by focusing on the event’s alumni, including several NBA top draft picks.

This was the site’s second year live-streaming the game, and it achieved more than 54,000 views and streamed 57,000 minutes of game time, with peak live viewers at 1,600. The feed was on YouTube last year, but the interactive features that Ballislife was able to add this year, such as asking on-screen trivia questions, helped the live stream stand out.

“Our growth on the Facebook platform has been a pretty crazy amount over the past six months compared to the last year,” says Rodriguez.

Ballislife’s next event is coming up in July, but details aren’t yet finalized, so Rodriguez can’t talk about it. He’s looking at new monetization options for this one, acting more as a distributor than as a production team.

Six-camera shoots don’t come cheap, so he is motivated to churn up some revenue. His company’s first three Facebook Live events garnered plenty of good numbers to show sponsors. Future live streams might include ad breaks or ads on post-event video-on-demand views. Whichever way he goes, Facebook Live is part of the plan.

“I see us kind of just growing more in Facebook,” Rodriguez says. “I think, as we grow more and grow the page and just familiarize our audience with us posting a lot of exclusive video content, the live part is just going to do better and better.”

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