TNT, NBA Digital Join Forces for Interactive Viewing Experience

Last Thursday, with the help of NBA Digital, TNT’s NBA doubleheader became truly multiplatform. TNT, NBA TV, and NBA.com joined forces to create an interactive edition of TNT NBA, integrating live tweets and adding player and game cameras, HD pocket-cam videos from the production team, and live chat to the doubleheader presentation.

“NBA Digital encompasses NBA.com and NBA TV, so the idea here was to fuse both with the TNT broadcast,” says Albert Vertino, senior producer for NBA TV and NBA Digital. “We like to stress at Turner that elements, talent, even our production people are multi-platform–available. People can work on NBA TV, dotcom, Turner, in the studio, on a feature, and on games. This encompassed all of that and showed off the variety and different avenues on which we can showcase the NBA.”

Tweets on TV
Elements and talent from NBA.com and NBA TV were infused throughout both games of the doubleheader. TNT analyst Kenny Smith provided a running courtside Twitter commentary, while Craig Sager added additional tweets from Chicago. NBA TV’s Chris Webber added his own comments from TNT’s Studio J in Atlanta, and all of the tweets were featured on the NBA TweetMix Channel, which provides a real-time stream of tweets from talent and official league and team accounts.

“The social-media aspect we’ve been using all year on NBA.com, but Thursday night went the other direction,” Vertino explains. “Instead of fielding questions off the Twitter account, Craig Sager and Kenny gave the peek behind the curtain to let fans know the inside goings-on of a broadcast. They gave fans more information that they wouldn’t normally get and made you as a viewer a little bit more involved in the broadcast itself.”

Natural Segues
Content from NBA.com spurred discussions among the analysts, including an MVP discussion and a report on front-office disarray in Portland, OR, that received follow-up attention in a column on Monday, after the game.

“They used articles from NBA.com as a way to segue in almost organically,” Vertino says. “It wasn’t something that was forced. We mixed and matched; there wasn’t a set agenda to get in X amount of elements or to refer to this person this way or that person that way. As we started to discuss it amongst the production folks, I think it became more of a natural segue.”

As part of the integration, fans were also treated to some exclusive camera angles in a TNT Overtime Extra mosaic on NBA.com. The new angles included an Announcer Cam, focused on the crew throughout the game, including live commentary during commercial breaks; two player cams, one isolated on each of two fan-chosen players; and a robotic camera, mounted above the backboard to give unique perspectives of the action on the court.

Behind the Scenes
Prior to the games, TNT’s Ernie Johnson was given an HD pocket video camera to take fans behind the scenes in TNT’s production meeting and out on the streets of Chicago. Videos took fans to the Michael Jordan statue, a favorite pizza joint, and the crew’s Thursday breakfast meeting, which Charles Barkley and Smith were teased for missing.

“We also went behind the scenes to look at what Craig was going to be wearing that night, since he’s a bit of an avant-garde dresser,” Vertino says.

Following halftime of the doubleheader’s second game, the Dallas Mavericks versus the Portland Trailblazers, NBA TV’s Kevin McHale took questions from fans via Facebook and Twitter, providing a live-chat opportunity.

On the Road Again
The Miami Heat took on the Chicago Bulls in the first game of the doubleheader, called by TNT’s studio team of Johnson, Barkley, and Smith. With the studio team on the road, the NBA TV team took over the studio in Atlanta for pre-game, halftime, and post-game analysis. Thursday marked the first time since 2001 that the TNT studio team called a game together, and it was their first regular-season road trip since 2006.

“I think that Ernie, Kenny, and Charles certainly welcomed the opportunity to bridge the gap [between digital and TV], which was great,” Vertino says. “It was terrific to have that interaction.”

First-Run Success
“I think it was a great start,” Vertino says. “It’s something that we’re going to continue to discuss as to how some elements might be better served than others. But I think it’s great that both sides are helping each other out so it becomes less of both sides and more all one side working as one.”

With some additional time to plan, he says, he would have tried to integrate some of the NBA.com columnists into the broadcast: “It would have been great to give them a little more airtime themselves, not just their work. But I think this is a great sign of how NBA Digital, both on dotcom and TV, continues to grow, and, hopefully, this type of thing helps build momentum for us as we head to the playoffs.”