NBA TV Enters Playoff-Production Game

Capping a record-setting regular season, NBA TV enters the postseason with plans to originally produce up to nine playoff matchups. For the first time since Turner Sports and the NBA partnered to jointly manage the league’s digital assets four years ago, NBA TV’s extensive coverage will include live productions of first-round games, in addition to live studio coverage, pre- and post-game analysis, press conferences, complete-game playbacks of every playoff game, and encore presentations of NBA GameTime.

“It’s just kind of the next step in the evolution of the network,” says Albert “Scooter” Vertino, VP of content, NBA Digital. “We felt that [NBA TV has] grown over a period of time now through the venture with the NBA, that this is the next step. This is where we want to be, and the playoffs are the perfect time to unveil this.”

NBA TV’s originally produced playoff slate tips off on Monday, when the Indiana Pacers host the Orlando Magic in Game 2. Ian Eagle will provide commentary with analyst Steve Smith and reporter Stephanie Ready. Coverage will continue on Tuesday with Game 2 of the Boston Celtics-Atlanta Hawks series and on Wednesday when the Pacers travel to Orlando for Game 3.

NBA TV, which provides 24-hour coverage of the league, will air approximately 1,500 hours of NBA Playoffs coverage. Despite the lockout-shortened season, the network drew a record number of viewers during the regular season and looks to carry that momentum into the postseason.

“There’s just this depth of talent in the league; it’s kind of like the perfect storm,” says Vertino. “We haven’t seen it in a while, and, this year, it all came together at the right time. There was excitement across many teams; the tremendous storylines [that] we talked about on Christmas Day have been sustained throughout the season. There’s no shortage of superstars, quality teams, or intriguing subject matter, and it allows us to come with fresh content every day and every night.”

NBA TV plans to approach its playoff schedule with a production philosophy resembling that of Turner Sports. “I expect our producers will handle things very similarly,” Vertino says, “documenting the play on the floor [and ensuring] accuracy with all content but also capturing the emotions and the storylines as they present themselves.”

NBA TV will deploy nine cameras for each game: three handhelds on the floor, high tight, game camera, high end zone, low slash, and robotic cameras above each of the backboards. Depending on game location, various mobile vendors, including Lyon Video and Game Creek, will supply full-fledged production trucks.

NBA TV will produce a live studio show for each game out of its Atlanta studio, with hosts Matt Winer, Rick Kamla, and Vince Cellini alongside a deep roster of analysts, including Chris Webber, Greg Anthony, Brent Barry, Dennis Scott, and Steve Smith.

Although NBA TV’s producers will certainly draw from Turner Sports’ production philosophy, the graphics presentation will be noticeably different, distinguishing NBA TV as a separate entity.

“While we may share announcers and we may share some production folks, it will certainly say NBA TV when you tune in for the game,” says Vertino. “I think that’s the biggest distinction, because it’s the first thing people see when they click over to NBA TV.”

Moving forward, NBA TV plans to master the fundamentals and perfect its production technique before adding bells and whistles to the telecast. As NBA TV’s maximum nine-game schedule is contingent on series’ getting extended, bells and whistles may not be necessary to create compelling television.

“Believe me, if we get extended series and we get nine games, we’d love it,” says Vertino, “because that means that the drama’s getting ramped up, the storylines are at an all-time high, and more games means more basketball. As we’ve seen this year, that’s a great thing for everyone.”