Mason Gordon couldn't get his new sport, SlamBall, going without money. His sport idea combined the agility of basketball with the body contact of hockey and the excitement of extreme sports. "The original concept was to create a live-action human video game," says Gordon, 28, co-founder of SlamBall in Burbank, California.
But getting a new sport off the ground is a very high-capital proposition. So Gordon took the idea to his former boss, Mike Tollin of Tollin/Robbins Productions, a TV production company in the Los Angeles area. Tollin suggested pitching the sport- was not yet in existence- TV networks to get start-up funding.
"We went to Telepictures [a Warner Bros. property that develops and produces programming] with a cardboard presentation. It was not much more than a pipe dream at the time," says the fortysomething Tollin, who partnered with Gordon on the idea. "We [tried] to present this as a TV property; we tried to speak their language. We got them excited about its possibilities."
Having whetted the appetites of the TV execs during the first meeting, Gordon and Tollin brought them to see a prototype of SlamBall in action at a warehouse in Valencia, California. It worked- 2001, the partners secured a deal with Warner Bros. Telepictures to help produce the show and with TNN to air six episodes of SlamBall. They also got the funding they needed to develop the idea. The first infusion of capital was in the mid-five figures; the second in the low six figures.
The first season of SlamBall aired on TNN in May 2002 and received good ratings. Now the company expects yearly sales to reach well into the seven figures for 2003. Says Gordon, "I think this is how sports will get launched in the future."