Full-Court Press: How The NBA Scores With Digital Media
While there’s no winner yet between the Heat and Mavericks, there’s already one W in the can: The NBA’s big win with digital.
The NBA is now in its third season of working with Turner Sports to jointly manage the league’s NBA Digital properties, including NBA TV, NBA.com and NBA Mobile, and growth has been strong. This year, the NBA finals will be watched by fans on television, online or mobile devices in more than 215 countries.
Mashable spoke with Bryan Perez, senior vice president and general manager of NBA Digital, about the league’s multi-faceted approach to dominating its most challenging opponent: evolving technology.
NBA Game Time Application
One of the league’s biggest initiatives was extending NBA Game Time, its free mobile app. The app is available on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, in addition to connected device platforms such as Apple TV, Google TV, LG NetCast, Panasonic Viera Connect, Roku, Samsung Apps and Vizio Internet Apps, making it one of the most far-reaching sports applications. This season, there have been 2.5 million Game Time app downloads for mobile; more than 681,000 of those were downloaded since the start of the playoffs. Last season, there were one million app downloads.
The quick growth is especially impressive when you consider the technical difficulties of bringing hoops into the living room via connected devices. Basketball games move so quickly and change so much — with so many cameras moving and panning — that it’s more difficult to render than other sports.
“We learned a lot about the challenges of delivering video into the living room,” says Perez. “We’ve advanced our knowledge and expertise on that and seen good pickup from the consumer side.”
For the playoffs, the NBA upped the ante and unveiled NBA Game Time on Microsoft Windows Phone, which provided fans with yet another way to access scores, stats and video highlights for the Mavericks-Heat series.
This season, NBA.com set all-time records for page views and videos — more than 2.5 billion videos were streamed by fans worldwide.
“It’s a pretty enormous number that puts us in the upper echelon of all publishers globally, outside of yourYouTubes and Hulus,” says Perez, adding that this was the second year in a row in which the site’s online video views were doubled. “It’s a reflection of the emphasis we’ve placed on video and the video experience on NBA.com.”
NBA.com serves up diverse content, much of which is syndicated from the pre- and post-game shows and original programming on NBA TV, NBA TV. Launched in 1999, NBA TV was the first league-owned cable channel, and it’s proof that NBA has long invested in mass media platforms to provide 24/7 content to fans. The site is well integrated with the league’s social media channels, and it saw an average of 8 million unique views per day, up 78% from 2010. Half of the site’s traffic is international.
During the finals, NBA.com hosted “Mini-Movies presented by Kia,” five-minute webisodes that provide exclusive footage of the Mavs and Heat as they duke it out for the championship. The webisodes go live on NBA.com after each game in the series.
NBA Social Media
“We’ve always had a reputation for being aggressive and being first with new technologies,” says Perez. He credits that to the NBA’s primary demographic, both on the court and in the stands — men aged 18 to 34 who are tech-savvy early adopters and social networkers. Perez says the NBA goes to wherever that audience is actively engaging. “We over-index over every other [sports] league in terms of people who fall in that category, so this is really just a reflection of us understanding our audience and building products that suit their needs as much as it is an operating philosophy for us.” The bottom line, he says, is that fans should be able to access the information they want any time, anywhere.
During the season — and especially during the playoffs — the NBA used social media to drive traffic to NBA.com and its video content, to answer fan questions, and of course, to encourage people to watch the game on whichever platform they use. And of course, many players have their own presence on social media platforms.
Perez says players showed little resistance to social media and are excited to engage with their fans — 250 NBA players have Twitter accounts and 75 have a Facebook Page. Overall, the league, team, and players have accumulated nearly 120 million followers and fans combined across Twitter and Facebook. At the start of this season, there were 63 million fans across these platforms, so the social media fanbase has nearly doubled.
When it comes to social media, the NBA likes to keep it fresh. One new initiative is the “Social MVP” onPlayoff Pulse, a take on Twitter’s Trending Topics. The Social MVP is an integration within Facebook, and the player who’s generating the most activity on Facebook at any given time, based on mentions. When this post was published, LeBron James was king of the Pulse. Once you click on a player, you are presented with a new window that aggregates content about that player from NBA.com. This way, you don’t just know what’s hot, you know why it’s hot, says Perez.
The Next Play
As the league establishes a three-year plan, Perez says the major plays will take place within the digital ventures, focusing on growth, innovation and multiplatform distribution opportunities. Perez credits this year’s success to the NBA’s inherent affinity toward innovation, but he also says there’s a “rising tide of overall interest” in the NBA.
“People are more interested and we’re able to deliver to them in more ways than ever before,” says Perez. He looks forward to strong growth numbers next year as both the league’s investment in digital and fan interest in the sport continue to grow.