Preparation, Compromise Are Key to Turner’s NBA Playoffs Coverage

The lockout may be, thankfully, in the rearview mirror for NBA fans, but the work stoppage is still affecting the league’s schedule. With only one day between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, the league’s broadcasters, like Turner Sports, have had to scramble to get everything in place.

“It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle,” says Tom Sahara, VP, operations and technology, at Turner Sports. “We’re trying to figure out if the picture is on the front of the puzzle or on the back of the puzzle. Which puzzle are we trying to solve here?”

With the release of the first-round schedule this morning, the picture is to becoming a little clearer. TNT will televise more than 40 NBA Playoff games beginning Saturday with the Chicago Bulls hosting the Philadelphia 76ers at 1 p.m. ET.

According to Sahara, the biggest challenges that arise in the first round are coordinating with all the local broadcasters and even maintaining constant communication with other networks in the Turner family, should a game go long and the start of another game need to be switched to TBS.

“We have to pay very close attention during the first round because we aren’t exclusive,” he says. “So there’s a lot of dialogue with the local team broadcasters about what they are expecting and what they are bringing in. It’s important that we work together because the camera and truck locations are limited. Not all venues can accommodate three broadcasters at the same time. We’re always working with them and attempting to come to a compromise. That’s just the nature of the first round.”

TNT’s camera complement for the first round will be similar to that of a typical regular-season telecast.

“Once we get deeper into the playoffs, we will start ramping things up and adding more cameras and enhancements,” says Sahara, “but the first couple of games are really all about making sure that we’re getting it right.”

On the digital side, TNT OverTime on NBA.com will provide multiple-camera-angle coverage including an Action Cam and a Backboard Cam for up to 21 games through the Western Conference Finals. Users also will have the ability to vote for which player they would like the Home Player Cam and Away Player Cam to follow per quarter. Fans can watch each camera individually, with picture-in-picture, or in the Mosaic View. Viewers also can participate in “Ask the Expert” Cover It Live chats, where they can ask NBA insiders questions during the games.

TNT’s coverage of the NBA Playoffs will feature its studio show hosted by Ernie Johnson with analysts Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal (in his first year with the network), and Kenny Smith.

Commentator teams for TNT’s first-round coverage are Marv Albert/Steve Kerr, Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller, Dick Stockton/Chris Webber, and Matt Devlin/Mike Fratello. The telecasts will also feature sideline reporters Craig Sager, David Aldridge, Cheryl Miller, Marty Snider, Tracy Wolfson, Jaime Maggio, Lewis Johnson, and Stephanie Ready.