EXCLUSIVE: JDS Sports has partnered with magazine-turned-media company SLAM and camp business Five-Star Basketball to launch RTG Features. The production shingle’s projects will focus exclusively on basketball.
The acronym RTG is a nod to SLAM’s original slogan, “Respect the Game.” The company will focus on original development and financing along with adapting articles from SLAM’s 225-plus magazine issues into projects ranging from feature films to documentaries to podcasts.
The company has numerous projects in development with its inaugural project the Stephon Marbury documentary A Kid From Coney Island, which was executive produced by Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman and is now streaming on Netflix.
On deck for RTG is the docuseries SLAMthology from A Kid From Coney Island filmmakers Coodie & Chike. The docuseries will highlight the most compelling stories from SLAM magazine’s 26-year archives. The project is slated to be released later this year. Most titles will be co-branded and promoted by SLAM and Five-Star Basketball upon release.
“To have two iconic basketball communities, brands and IP at the center of our portfolio is an advantage we lean on,” said JDS Sports CEO Peter Robert Casey.
JDS Sports president Matt Aronson added, “It allows us to more effectively develop original ideas and promote those ideas once they become completed projects out in the world. It also allows us to attract deal flow and seamlessly strike mutually-beneficial relationships among our companies.”
Casey and Aronson said RTG Features and their debut project A Kid From Coney Island is key to this portfolio strategy and an example to point to. JDS was part of the group that acquired The Orchard Film Group — which is now known as Streamwise/1091 Pictures — from Sony at the same time A Kid From Coney Island was showing at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. The feature documentary was produced by Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi’s Significant Productions and chronicles the rise, fall and rebirth of Marbury, whose connection to SLAM dates back to 1995 when he became the magazine’s inaugural high school diarist as a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn.
“We knew A Kid From Coney Island was the perfect project with which to launch RTG,” said Aronson. “It already had multiple references to SLAM and was directed by the talented duo Coodie & Chike, whom we continue to work closely with at RTG. Beyond that, it was a powerful story that transcended just the game of basketball; a quality that we seek out in all of our projects for RTG.”
After securing the North American distribution rights and bringing on Durant and Kleiman of Thirty-Five Ventures as executive producers, 1091 and RTG released Coney Island for a limited theatrical run cut short by COVID-19, followed by an accelerated digital window and exclusive streaming on Netflix.