Broadcast innovation is at the heart of an expanded partnership between the NBA, USA Basketball and Twitch.
Twitch will live stream 76 games of the Jr. NBA Global Championship games this week. The streaming platform will also live stream USA National Team exhibition games, beginning with Friday’s Blue vs. White game in Las Vegas followed by four international exhibitions.
The NBA was one of Twitch’s first partners outside of gaming as the two entities have come together in deals the past two years to stream G-League games and NBA 2K League.
“Twitch is the home of multiplayer entertainment and we’re excited to showcase these exciting games in a place where fans can cheer for the players live,” said Michael Argon, Twitch senior vice president of content. “We know the passion of the communities around the NBA well.”
The deal will also allow Twitch to stream select USA Women’s National Team friendlies, USA Basketball 3×3 events and the 2020 Nike Hoops Summit.
The games will still have linear broadcasts – such as the USA Basketball exhibitions on NBA TV – but the Twitch streams offer a way to connect to a young demographic as well as allow for experimentation in broadcasting, said David Denenberg, NBA senior vice president of global media distribution and business affairs. The audience numbers will be watched, but Denenberg said that’s not the main driver of the expanding partnership with Twitch.
“We’ve seen really positive numbers in terms of G-League and 2K League, but it’s really important to us the way the platform and its tool spur innovation,” Denenberg said. “That’s one of our areas of focus. We love to learn from the things they’re doing and apply those learnings to other content.”
A primary example of the broadcasting innovation under Twitch is the platform’s option to co-stream the events, which will allow fans the ability to provide their own commentary to their community of followers. Other pieces will be incorporated as well, such as interactive custom overlays.
Finding ways to improve broadcasts is a major focus of the NBA currently, Denenberg said, noting the league’s experimentation with special camera angles and virtual reality. He also said there’s an acceptance that not every experiment will work, but the league is eager to find new ways to enhance broadcasts.
“We really want to make sure we’re reaching viewers wherever they are and know we can’t stay static and televise games the same way we have been for the last 40, 50 years,” he said. “We’re still big believers in linear television delivering big audiences, but we want to make sure we’re presenting content in a way that’s attractive to lots of people who may not want to watch the same way I watched growing up.”
Beyond the on-the-court content, Denenberg is also excited to see the way the platform can deliver ancillary storytelling content around the USA Basketball training camp.
“Those opportunities are still evolving,” he said. “They have a unique way of speaking to their audience, and this isn’t just a deal for games, but other content. With 3×3 becoming an Olympic Sport, it will be interesting how we can work with that and how to present that content in a different way.”
USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley echoed Denenberg’s excitement in taking a new approach to broadcasting basketball through a streaming platform and connecting to a global audience, both with games and off-the-court storytelling.
“We look forward to new, innovative ways to tell USA Basketball’s story, as well as the athletes and coaches who represent their country on USA Basketball national teams,” Tooley said.