Sleek New Look, Ratings Records Have NBA Digital Off to Roaring Start

There’s a budding franchise in Brooklyn, a coaching change in Los Angeles, and the game’s biggest star taking aim at repeating as World Champion and MVP in Miami. It has been a wild start to the 2012-13 NBA campaign, and “Scooter” Vertino, VP, content, at NBA Digital, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We try to embrace that type of thing in everything we do, whether it′s .com or TV, so I think things have gone really well to start,” he says. “It’s a great property to work on because there’s so many compelling stories and they just keep presenting themselves.”

It has all led to a tremendous start in the ratings race for NBA Digital, a property of Turner Sports. NBA TV’s Lakers-Trail Blazers telecast on Opening Night attracted an average of 868,000 total viewers to become the network’s most-viewed telecast ever. Maintaining the momentum, NBA TV’s Lakers-Spurs telecast on Nov. 13 pulled in an average of 739,000 total viewers to become the network’s most-viewed NBA Fan Night of all time.

Those who are tuning in may have noticed, NBA Digital has a fresh coat of paint in the form of a new studio set and graphics package for NBA TV, a new homepage design for NBA.com, and all-new mobile-site layouts for its 30 team sites.

NBA Digital’s new studio features a half-court demonstration area with a regulation basket.

Following NBA Digital’s coverage of the U.S. Olympic Basketball Team’s gold-medal run in London, Turner Sports broke down the old set and began construction on a new 5,000 square ft. of studio space. It is outfitted with 13 monitors, including the primary display — which stretches a mammoth 103 ft. — and a 65-in. touchscreen.

The set first hit air in early October as part of the network’s team-preview programming and now serves as home to such shows as Game TimeFan Night, The Jump, The BeatFantasy Insider, and more.

“It’s been fantastic,” says Vertino. “It was one of those things where we wanted to get to another level as far as what we can do on the set, so we use just about every corner of it.”

NBA Digital’s programming for both television and online requires various set designs, and, according to Vertino, it was hard to fit it all in the old space. At times, sets for other shows could even be seen in the background of live shots. Now, with a wealth of space, the crew is able to use each corner of the studio for its various sets, which all center on the Game Time stage, which sits on an authentic hardwood half court with regulation hoop. As with many new-studio builds of late, the set is mobile and can be easily transported off stage to accommodate stand-up shots or, in NBA TV’s case, for full basketball demonstrations by analysts.

“When we want to use the half-court area for demonstrations, it’s one-stop shopping, which is terrific,” says Vertino. “We really feel like we have an advantage there. We’re on so often and for so long that our guys can come in with preconceived notions of things that they want to teach, and that’s great, but we’re also on long enough that, if we see something during a 7:00 game, at 9:30, we can talk about someone flipping a pick or a different variation of the triangle or whatever it may be. It gives us a lot of different options to go with.”

NBA.com’s new design can showcase up to six videos on the site’s homepage.

The renovations didn’t require any significant gear purchases because the studio still runs off the same control room and cameras. NBA TV did, however, roll out a sharp new graphics package off a Chyron Duet.

Online, the redesigned NBA.com spotlights video. At the top of the new homepage design is an enhanced display showing up to six video channels — or, as it’s called inside NBA Digital, the “six-pack” — with the ability to watch video directly on the homepage without being redirected to another page.

NBA.com also incorporates enhanced social-media features and customized navigation that provides easy access to the features most relevant to them.

The new mobile sites for NBA.com and all 30 teams also feature more video than ever. There is also an additional emphasis on real-time updates in NBA Digital’s mobile design. The infrastructure is more social-network–oriented, opening the door for fans to connect to league news and information more quickly and with a flashier presentation.

All in time for what will likely continue to be an exciting NBA season.

Time-lapse video courtesy of Turner Sports.