"Ball in the Family" is back for a fourth season on Facebook Watch, with a greater focus on Lonzo's relationship drama, mom Tina and more in longer episodes. 

By Jacob Feldman
December 04, 2018

The Balls are back. Lavar, Lonzo, and company are set to return for a fourth season of Ball in the Family on Facebook Watch, beginning Sunday. The show will pick up with Lonzo fitting in on LeBron’s Lakers (Rajon Rondo supposedly makes a cameo at Lonzo’s birthday celebration) and LiAngelo Ball hoping to land in the G League. Meanwhile, LaMelo is returning to high school, attending Spire Academy in Ohio.

Executive producer Steve Ezell found out that he’d be sending half his crew to the midwest this season via a panicked text from a producer after Lavar Ball mentioned the move while filming a scene in London. The Balls’ Junior Basketball Association is still on tour through Europe and Asia. Such is life tracking team BBB. “It’s been super different than any project I’ve ever worked on,” Ezell said. “We are all just rolling with it.”

Filming for the show started on Lonzo’s draft night and has included LiAngelo’s arrest in China followed by Lavar’s spat with President Trump. But increasingly, viewers have stuck around for drama closer to home, such as Lonzo’s evolving relationship with Denise, the mother of his child. During the first season, cameramen tracked the rookie throughout warmups and games. “We quickly realized they’ve got that same thing on ESPN—we’re not providing anything different there,” Ezell said.

At the same time, fans clamored for more coverage of the Ball matriarch, Tina, as she recovered her ability to move and talk after a 2017 stroke. So the producers adjusted, figuring out a way to have her do on-camera interviews despite her condition. The audience also successfully lobbied for longer episodes—they were extended by 30% midway through season two.

That instant feedback and flexibility separates working with Facebook from making a show for a traditional network, Ezell said. While the Balls go about reinventing the athlete-celebrity business model, their show is also innovating. The film-to-air period has been reduced considerably, a must when any major Ball storyline will show up on Instagram and ESPN.com within a matter of hours. The time between seasons is shorter as well (hence season four coming in Lonzo’s second year).

The result has been a rare bright spot for Facebook Watch. In a CNBC report that the company is turning its focus to older viewers while repositioning its video platform, Facebook reported “Ball in the Family” as a show still capable of attracting younger users, with over 70% of viewers under the age of 35. Mina Lefevre, Facebook Watch’s head of development and programming, said the show ranks near the top in internal metrics like number of views over one minute, average retention, and community engagement.

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While more than 13 million people have watched at least one minute of Ball in the Family and 1.7 million users follow the show on Facebook, the diehards spend their time in “Big Ballers - The Official Ball in the Family Group,” which has nearly 70,000 members. More than half of those who have watched an episode don’t follow the NBA or any team on the website, suggesting that the show’s family drama storylines draw in non-sports fans. “The idea of Facebook Watch has always been content that really compels people to have a comment about it … and we’ll give them a tool to do it,” Lefevre said.

That has been the pitch to new potential programmers, and Ball in the Family stands as one of the company’s go-to examples, both to athletes and other entertainers, of the value that comes with serving content where a community already exists. The Balls themselves have interacted directly with their fans on Facebook, commenting via the platform’s Watch Party feature, advertising Big Baller Brand merchandise to the show’s audience as well as those with similar demographics, and airing the family’s JBA games on Facebook Watch.

Ultimately, it seems like the show could keep going for as long as the family continues generating conversation. And the Balls show no signs of slowing down.

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