Coaches Plus Media Looks to Take a Shot at Live Sports Content

Former Princeton coach Pete Carril in 1996
Coaches Plus Media’s documentary subjects include former Princeton men’s basketball coach Pete Carril, pictured here in 1996. (Image credit: Jamie Squire /Allsport)

Sports content production company Coaches Plus Media is celebrating its first anniversary by looking to expand its portfolio of coach-themed documentaries to include live sports programming as it continues to establish itself on the sports television landscape. 

The company, a collaboration between the nearly 5,000-member National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), the 3,500-member Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) and production company TeamWorks Media, hit the sports documentary court running in April 2022 by producing documentaries profiling legendary college basketball coaches. The docs — Think.See.Do. – The Legacy of Pete Carril, which focused on the legendary Princeton coach, and Dear Coach Stringer, which profiled former Rutgers and Iowa women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer — found a home on CBS during last month’s coverage of men's March Madness.

A third documentary, Back to School with Gus Johnson, aired on Fox this past February and followed the veteran Fox Sports announcer’s return to school for a fellowship program at Harvard University. 

Back to School with Gus Johnson

Coaches Plus Media's Jay Sharman (L) and Gus Johnson  (Image credit: Coaches Plus Media )

“We set out to develop projects about coaches because there’s nobody telling positive coaches stories,” Coaches Plus Media CEO and NABC executive director Craig Robinson told Multichannel News. “What we found is the stories about coaches are either about something bad that happened to a kid, a guy making too much money or getting fired from a job before his contract is up. Yet there are so many positive stories to tell about coaches.”

Coaches Plus Media president Jay Sharman said the company’s ability to bring both the NABC and the WBCA to the table gave the company credibility with distributors. “These are the guys that were going to deliver unique perspectives from a coaches point of view, so it made our ability to develop and distribute the documentaries easier,” Sharman said. “To have three documentaries on the air nationally in year one is unheard of, but it’s been fun to actually see the reality most mirror what we had planned to do.”

The company will look to double its sports documentary output — including an expansion beyond profiles of college basketball coaches — in its second year as it looks to take advantage of distributor interest in sports content, according to Sharman. Later this year, the company plans to launch a women’s sports initiative that will feature content featuring athletes, coaches and institutions.

Craig Robinson

Coaches Plus Media's Craig Robinson  (Image credit: Coaches Plus Media )

Robinson said Coaches Plus is also looking at developing a package of live college basketball games produced within the NABC and the WBCA. “The coaches determine who they play in the non-conference games, so what we’re doing is we’re getting our members to allow us a game or two a year to be able to put in a package that we can go out to market and sell,” Robinson said. ”You marry that up with the shoulder programming that we can produce, and it makes for a bigger opportunity for Coaches Plus.”

Added Sharman: “If you look at the top 100 broadcasts in the U.S. over 90% of them are live sports so there’s audience interest in sports content. Add to that the success of sports documentary shows like [Netflix’s Formula One-based] Drive to Survive series that are having a profound impact on sports, and there’s a lot of interest in the marketplace.”

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.