A few months ago, NBA boss Adam Silver said that pro basketball broadcasts should look more like Twitch, Amazon’s frenetic livestreaming platform for video games.
Presto! The NBA is going to start streaming games on Twitch.
Big caveat: You won’t be able to see Steph Curry, LeBron James or any other player from the NBA’s main league on Twitch. Instead, the league will start streaming up to six games a week from its minor league “G League” games, starting Friday.
But those low-stakes matchups also give the NBA and Twitch the ability to do more than just stream the games on another digital platform (you can already see G League games on Facebook and many other outlets).
The NBA wants to experiment with the way the games look and sound, with the hope of appealing to younger audiences they imagine want a reinvented take on sports TV.
So here are the first set of trials: Twitch, which lets lots of people watch and comment while other people play video games, will give a dozen of its better-known commentators, like “GoldGlove,” the ability to do their own play-by-play for G League games.
Viewers can also call up interactive graphics with player and team data that will overlay the games while they’re streaming; there’s also a feature that rewards fans for interacting with the streams by giving them “loyalty points.”
I can’t tell you how that will look or sound, since the games haven’t started airing yet. But at the top of this post you can see Twitch’s mock-up of how the games might look.
None of this stuff seems revolutionary. Various sports, particularly soccer, have tinkered with fan commentary for a while. And it seems like conventional TV broadcasts get new layers of graphics every year.
On the other hand, Silver is right when he says pro sports on TV generally looks and feels the same way it has for decades.
Earlier this year, NBC started using its “sky cam” to broadcast most of an NFL game — basically providing a view of a game most video gamers have been accustomed to for years — and people went nuts for it. So even a mild experiment could work out here. And if it does, NBA execs hope that some of the features could eventually find their way to its main product.