LOS ANGELES — Can LaVar Ball’s boastful antics and familial dramas draw a TV-size audience for Facebook?
The first two episodes of “Ball in the Family” — a docu-series about LaVar Ball, his basketball whiz-kid sons and his wife — will premiere Aug. 31 on the social platform. The show was funded by Facebook and produced by Bunim-Murray Productions, the company that brought you reality-TV fare like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “The Real World.”
“You think you know me? You think you know my family?” LaVar Ball says in a teaser for the show. “You have no idea.”
For Facebook, “Ball in the Family” is one of the first original TV-style shows it’s using to launch Facebook Watch: a new feature that aggregates longer-form video content and encourage episodic viewing — ideally giving Facebook more premium midroll ad inventory to sell. For now, access to Facebook Watch is available to a limited number of U.S. users in a test rollout, but any Facebook user can access “Ball in the Family” from its dedicated show page on the service.
Facebook is betting that LaVar Ball and his larger-than-life personality will pull a crowd. The former basketball and football player has gained notoriety for bragging about his sons’ hoops abilities, and he’s also famous for claiming that in his prime he would have been able to “kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.”
“We wanted to give our fans an unfiltered look into our lives and show them a side of us that isn’t typically seen,” LaVar Ball said in a statement. “We have a big community of fans on Facebook, so we’re excited our series is going to be on Watch. And who better to help us tell our story than Bunim-Murray Productions.” His official Facebook page has 112,000 followers.
The show follows the lives of the L.A.-based Balls, as LaVar coaches Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo and younger sons LiAngelo and LaMelo, and builds the family’s Big Baller Brand sports-apparel business. “Ball in the Family” also covers the rehabilitation of Tina Ball, LaVar’s wife, as she recovers from a stroke.
Following the premiere of the first two episodes Thursday, new episodes will be available on Sundays, beginning Sept. 10. Viewers can add the show to their watchlist by following the “Ball in the Family” show page.
“We are thrilled to work with the Ball family to share their remarkable story at a pivotal moment in their lives,” said Gil Goldschein, chairman and CEO Bunim-Murray Productions. “For fans, it will be a front-row seat to how the family deals with the sky-high expectations heaped upon it.”
The show’s home on Facebook “has enabled us to push the conventions of reality in a way we think will really drive community engagement,” added Julie Pizzi, co-president of entertainment and development for Bunim-Murray.
Facebook funded the production of the show, and it has paid for other original series as well. Those include Conde Nast Entertainment’s “Virtually Dating,” which bowed Wednesday on Facebook, about couples who go on blind dates that occur entirely in VR; and reality series “Returning the Favor” from Mike Rowe (“Dirty Jobs”), whose first two episodes premiered Monday. But the company has paid for only a handful of the several hundred shows initially in Facebook Watch, and execs say the seed-funding strategy is simply an effort to jump-start an open ecosystem of long-form video content on the platform.
“Ball in the Family” is executive produced by Bunim-Murray’s Gil Goldschein, Julie Pizzi, Farnaz Farjam and Steve Ezell. LaVar Ball and Tina Ball serve as producers.