NBA pushes boundaries with new mobile app
The NBA's newly refreshed free mobile app include new videos and other features that aim to increase its engagement with fans while not angering the companies that pay billions to broadcast live games.
Why it matters: The NBA (along with its content partner Turner Sports, a division of Warner Bros. Discovery) wants its app to build a stronger direct relationship with fans, but can’t afford to alienate ESPN and the regional sports networks.
Driving the news: The new NBA app, being unveiled today, includes a range of archived content and new documentaries, including more than 500 hours of classic games.
- The app will also offer live video, including pregame and postgame press conferences, pregame shows from regional sports networks and "Crunch Time," a new show hosted by Jared Greenberg offering "whip-around" coverage of multiple games in progress.
- The league is relying on its partnership with Microsoft to provide the cloud and AI know-how for new personalized elements of the app.. "We want to focus on the things that are very specific to basketball," NBA executive VP Chris Benyarko told reporters at a briefing earlier this month.
The intrigue: League officials downplayed the notion that the new app will step on the toes of ESPN and other broadcast partners. "It’s about making it easier to be an NBA fan," said NBA senior VP Andrew Yaffe. "We’ve worked with them (and) showed them what we’re thinking."
- Turner Sports is in a bit of a different boat, as it not only broadcasts games on TNT, but is also the NBA's joint venture partner in all things digital, including the new app and NBA.com.
Between the lines: The new app also comes at a time when sports gambling is taking on new importance.
- Again, the league is trying to strike a balance of producing content of interest to those betting on sports without appearing to be pushing fans in that direction.
- Yaffe acknowledged the company is trying to thread the needle here, noting that all the gaming-specific content is produced by partners and that the revamped app offers a toggle switch allowing fans to choose not to see content specifically related to gambling.
- "We won’t be taking actual bets through our experiences," Benyarko added.
The NBA also sees international markets as a key target for the new app.
- The league has been seeking to grow its audience, especially overseas, with games scheduled to take place this year in Japan and Abu Dhabi.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to show that the NBA’s content parter is Turner Sports, not Warner Sports.