Ice Cube's Big3 basketball league signs media rights deal with Triller – here's what it means

Key Points
  • Social media company Triller agreed to a media rights deal with summer basketball league Big3. The pact will feature the league's first all-star game and 30 hours of live games from its 2021 season.
  • The deal could also feature signage opportunities for Triller across ViacomCBS platforms, since the media company also has a rights deal with Big3.
Triplets guard Alan Anderson (6) drives to the basket during the BIG3 championship game between the Triplets and the Killer 3's on September 1, 2019 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.
Brian Rothmuller | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

Social media company Triller agreed to a joint venture deal with rapper Ice Cube's Big3 basketball league and will host its first all-star game, the parties told CNBC. 

Specific terms of the agreement were not made available, but Big3 and Triller will share advertising revenue earned from events. The companies will also share arena signage and will cross-promote their brands.

Big3 is a traveling circuit league and features former National Basketball Association stars playing in a three-on-three style format in the summer. Participants of the league usually earn roughly $10,000 per game plus bonuses that are tied to winning. Salaries can reach up to $100,000.

"There's nothing as fun and fast in sports as Big3 basketball, and once you watch one game, you'll be hooked," Triller co-owner Ryan Kavanaugh said in a statement. "We are excited to partner with Ice Cube and the Big3 organization to bring this exciting and growing sport to Triller audiences around the world." 

Triller will also feature 30 hours of exclusive games from the Big3 2021 season and host its draft on June 14. The Big3 was founded by Cube and entertainment executive Jeff Kwatinetz in 2017. 

In a joint statement, Cube and Kwatinetz said the deal allows Big3 to expand its reach to Generation Z, or those under 24. They said the agreement is a "perfect combination of sports and entertainment for that demographic."

In this photo illustration the Triller logo is seen displayed on a smartphone.
Sheldon Cooper | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

Triller wants to expand in sports

Triller, which competes with TikTok, wants to add more sports content to increase its user base. Triller leverages short video content and successfully promoted a fight between boxing icons Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. in November on its platform. 

The company makes money via e-commerce, branded content integration, streaming pay-per-view events and other digital content monetization. But Triller has faced questions about its user base and has shuffled its top executives over the last few months.

People with knowledge of Triller's business dealings told CNBC the company raised $250 million at a $1.5 billion valuation. The people asked not to be identified due to privacy concerns as the company does not publicly discuss its financials.   

The people said Triller had 300 million downloads of its mobile app but didn't say how many active users it has. Still, Triller used the funds to expand, purchasing Fite TV, a combat sports streaming service, and a tech company called It appointed that company's CEO, Mahi de Silva, as the new CEO of TrillerNet, the parent company that operates Triller. He replaced former Triller CEO Mike Lu.

Triller also purchased Verzuz, a music-based content platform that gained popularity on Instagram. Triller outbid Apple to acquire Verzuz, according to Bloomberg. And the company also agreed to a licensing deal with Universal Music Group to leverage the company's catalog.

By entering a partnership with Big3, Triller hopes to grow its brand awareness and streaming opportunities with a unique sports audience that supports the league. Triller could also see its signage displayed on ViacomCBS' network and its Paramount+ streaming service, since Big3 also has a media rights deal with ViacomCBS. 

Triller's agreement calls for all Big3 games to feature its signage courtside, which is in view of Big3 broadcasts. 

Last year, Big3 made changes to its game structure before the pandemic canceled the 2020 season, its fourth. The Big3 will start its 10-week season July 10 in Las Vegas. 

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