Those who run successful media outlets know the value in providing rich, well-rounded coverage. Turner’s NBA TV has capitalized on the hunger for meaningful storytelling with its magazine-style show, “Beyond the Paint.”
“You can get highlights a lot of different places, and our highlight shows have to be good, but there’s an awareness that you have to offer more than that,” said Matt Winer, the Turner personality who hosts the show.
“Beyond the Paint” lasts 30 minutes and dives into a variety of topics that aren’t covered on NBA TV’s highlight-style shows.
“We felt there was an opportunity on NBA TV for longer-form storytelling that, with a few exceptions of pieces that NBA Entertainment had done, we weren’t doing much of,” said Winer. “So a few years ago, I floated the idea, which evolved to ‘Beyond the Paint,’ where we tackle stuff that isn’t specifically NBA-related, but basketball-related.”
“It has nothing to do with NBA games in particular, or with stats and analysis, but it’s a different look at basketball,” he added. “My unofficial tagline that I’ve been using is that it’s a show about basketball and the people who make the game.”
Some of the show’s topics are particularly challenging, which has allowed Winer to make the most of his journalism roots. For example, in its latest installment, which airs Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET, “Beyond the Paint” features a segment on the Jacksonville video game tournament shooting.
“Not all of the stories we’ve done have been that heavy, and the show is not intentionally heavy, but it’s a different approach,” Winer said. “I’m a journalism school grad, so I tap into that training, even though it was a long time ago. Most of what I do in the studio is ‘small-j journalism,’ and not really this sort of reporting, but more of asking people about the context of teams and the league at large. This is a very different approach.”
The new episode begins with a profile on Timothy Anselimo, a professional NBA 2K gamer who survived the gaming tournament shooting. The segment highlights his recovery, during which he underwent reconstructive thumb surgery and occupational therapy to regain his mobility after a bullet passed through his hand.
“If I’m Tim, I don’t know if I’d be willing or ready to have that discussion, so we’re incredibly grateful,” Winer said. “They’re really dealing with this emotion still, and understandably so — it was a horrific experience, and it’s shaken them even more than I think Tim allowed us to see.”
Covering tough topics isn’t something Winer takes lightly, and he makes it a point to treat each story with a sense of empathy.
“There’s a sensitivity involved, with discussions to get people to open up and agree to even speak about such things,” Winer said. “You sort of walk a fine line between being sensitive and eliciting information and answers to take viewers into that experience, and that’s a tricky thing as an interviewer.”
In addition to the shooting, the newest episode features the conversation around mental health in the NBA, with a focus on recent initiatives implemented by the league.
“Basically, the infrastructure is the safety net that the NBA and the players association have put in place in wake of the disclosures by Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan and their mental health challenges,” Winer said. “Hopefully, this has removed some of the stigma and mental health issues that players and others have faced for so long. The league and players association has responded by hiring folks and putting things in place so players can get some help because, like anybody else, most are not equipped to do it alone.”
Winer acknowledged the NBA for permitting his team to take on big stories like these.
“I would say, to the league’s credit, they allow us to tackle these subjects that are not necessarily all rainbows and unicorns,” he said. “There are some difficult topics covered, and they don’t have to let us do that, but for the most part they leave us alone on that.”
A more lighthearted segment of the episode delves into StockX, a marketplace for authentic sneakers and streetwear.
“For our other piece on StockX, the basketball connection is two-fold,” Winer said. “The secondary market for basketball shoes is a huge business, plus StockX was co-founded by Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavaliers. So, it’s an explanation of what this business is and how folks buy shoes and luxury goods.”
Pinpointing a wide range of story topics like the ones that appear in Tuesday’s episode is a team effort, according to Winer.
“It’s a fairly small staff — for every one of us who works on this show, this is our second job,” he said. “We put out an all-call alert, and we take story ideas from anyone in the building. People can say, ‘I heard about this interesting thing in a college or high school,’ or, ‘What about this topic?’ and we consider all of those and discuss them internally with the core group to see if they make sense for our show.”
Throughout that process, Winer’s group is constantly looking to go above and beyond traditional sports coverage — a theme that Turner, as a whole, has embraced.
“These are the segments that people want, and you have to increase your footprint a bit,” he said. “You can’t just be strictly basketball highlights and analysis. We like to think we do that better than most, but the reality is, we’re not the only ones providing it… Everybody has to be versatile these days.”