For Playoff Push, NBA TV Is On Before, Sometimes During, and Always After

During the playoffs, NBA TV has a full-court press on the elimination action. Now available in more than 55 million homes, NBA TV is airing a handful of first-round playoff games in addition to live press conferences and shoulder programming that keep fans of every team tuned in throughout the tournament. With a pregame show added to every game this year, NBA TV is showcasing more than 1,500 hours of coverage throughout the playoffs, and the production team has fun in the process.

“Our guys really do this as fans,” says Scooter Vertino, VP of content for NBA TV and NBA.com. “We are surrounded by a bunch of people that eat, breathe, and sleep NBA basketball. This is what everyone works for, to get to the finals. We may go for a month and a half on pure adrenaline.”

On Even When They’re Off
In addition to a healthy dose of adrenaline, Vertino does imbue his team with some time off, scheduling his producers to work a game followed by two days off. During that time off, the producers, directors, and managing editors all look ahead to anticipate their next area of focus.

“On those off days, not only can they recharge their batteries, but, along with the help of the managing editor, they can look forward to storylines,” Vertino explains. “They work in concert with our brethren at TNT with regards to using some of their reporters, for reports or sound gathering. We’re also in contact with our creative group with regard to teases and other tape elements that add some extra production value and eye candy.”

The one person who does not get the luxury of that time off, Vertino says, is the NBA TV researcher. During the year, research personnel are shared across TNT and NBA TV, but, during the playoffs, TNT needs its researchers full-time, so NBA TV is on its own.

“He is one of the unsung heroes in that group,” Vertino says.

Originality at the Top and Bottom
During the in-game action, NBA TV largely uses the home team’s broadcast feed, adding NBA TV graphics. On occasion, Vertino’s team will ask its partners for help with particular warm-up shots, player arrivals, or postgame captures. Before and after the game, however, all the content is original.

“We’ll do a pregame show, halftime, and wrap-up, so that’s where you’ll see NBA TV personalities and production,” Vertino points out. “We always felt like we should be the home for one-stop shopping for all of your NBA entertainment, informational, and statistical news needs. When a game ends, whether it’s on TNT, ESPN, ABC, or NBA TV, we are going to carry that press conference. We also have pregame shows this year, so we’re now on before, sometimes during, and always after.”

NBA TV also annotates every press conference, filling gaps between interview subjects with ongoing analysis and reactions.

“That’s a big thing for us, to have the viewer always know that, if you turn on NBA TV, you’re going to see something that’s timely and informative,” Vertino says. “That’s what we do with the press conferences.”

The day after the game, NBA TV provides cut-down versions of each of the previous night’s games, so that fans can watch all of the pertinent action from a given game in about an hour. Those thumbnail versions of each game are great ways to get fans up to speed without asking them to invest an entire afternoon in a replay, Vertino says.

Ready for Everything
The biggest challenge involved in producing 1,500 hours of playoff coverage, he says, is the uncertainty that comes with it.

“You know that something crazy is always going to happen; it’s how you react to it that helps,” Vertino explains. “We’re constantly in contact with guys in the control room, people at home on their night off, guys in the feed room taking in the games, and monitoring social media to make sure that we’re covered on all fronts. There could always be an incredible performance, team or individual; there’s going to be controversy; there could be a buzzer beater, and we have to be ready for all of the above.”