NBA TV, operated by Turner Sports, has adopted a three-pronged approach to entertaining basketball fans at home as it awaits the return of live games.
The network’s content strategy during the coronavirus pandemic has relied heavily on original programming, classic games, and a new Twitter talk show.
That show, called “#NBATogether With Ernie Johnson,” aims to connect with digital consumers. It features TNT’s “Inside The NBA” host Johnson interviewing guests from around the league. Participants so far have included NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri.
#NBATogether airs exclusively first on the NBA’s Twitter account and has averaged nearly one million views per episode.
“NBA TV has always been focused on super-serving NBA fans with a full complement of unique content, and we’ve tried to maintain that as much as possible,” Tina Shah, executive vice president and general manager of Turner Sports, said. “We’ll keep experimenting with new ways to reach and interact with fans until live sports resume.”
The NBA, which suspended its season on March 12, has also leaned into social media during the coronavirus by leveraging Instagram Live to stream player interviews with other NBA TV hosts as well as talent from ESPN – its other media rights partner. The 43 livestreams to date have averaged 394,000 views each.
Current NBA players are also featured on the league’s IG Live platform multiple times per week to participate in fan Q&A’s.
Last month, the NBA and Turner made out-of-market games through NBA League Pass free to fans until play resumes, akin to steps taken by other U.S. professional sports leagues. The promotion opens the league’s entire library of classic games up to fans, including action from the 2019-2020 season.
NBA League Pass typically costs consumers between $29.99 to $124.99 per year. Packages range from NBA TV broadcast games plus analysis to single-team passes and all NBA out-of-market games aired without commercials.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with increases in the amount of daily video-on-demand consumption and double-digit growth across video starts, time spent, and time spent per viewer when compared to regular-season averages,” Shah said.
However, the NBA League Pass promotion is not intended to convert free users into paying customers when the NBA does return, Turner said.
“Our sole intention with this complimentary access to NBA League Pass was to put the fan first,” Shah said. “The NBA is premium content, and conversion was not a factor in the decision.”
Until weekly NBA games return to NBA TV, Turner will continue relying on established programming.
“NBA GameTime” – the network’s flagship daily studio show – is now produced remotely, with analysts and NBA All-Stars like Trae Young and CJ McCollum featured nightly. Similarly, Turner recently aired a remote episode of its “Open Court” show with Dwyane Wade, Chris Webber, and other on-air talents.
“On a daily basis, [our production division] is sharing ideas, devising show rundowns, securing guests, coordinating interviews, and using technology such as Kiswe to facilitate them,” Shah said. “This while post-producing a variety of shows and projects; everything it takes to pull off these content initiatives.”