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Here’s Why The NBA Is The Most Tech-Savvy League Today

From its mobile-friendly camera angles to its in-house e-sports league, the NBA is leading professional sports into the future.

Here’s Why The NBA Is The Most Tech-Savvy League Today
Melissa Brenner’s team is using new technologies to create “snack bites of content that lead our fans to watch more games.” [Photo: Eric T. White; Set design: Shane Klein at Workgroup]

Last season, the NBA set new records for attendance (22 million) and global fan engagement (more than a billion viewers around the world tuned in at some point). That growth was powered in part by a mobile-focused digital strategy that engages fans in compelling new ways. “We’re bringing the world courtside,” says Melissa Brenner, the NBA’s executive vice president of digital media. In 2017, the NBA made significant enhancements to League Pass, its live-stream product that allows fans to view games in all markets. The league also installed additional cameras in every arena and introduced Mobile View, which provides tighter, zoomed-in angles for smaller screens; today, more than a third of subscribers are tuning in via handheld devices. “We used to call it the second screen,” Brenner says of mobile, “but for a lot of people, now it’s the first screen.” In partnership with Tencent, League Pass rolled out in China, reportedly generating more than 190 million views during the 2017 NBA Finals. (The service is available in 200 countries.) Brenner is also now exploring the “infinite amounts of content we can produce with technology.” For example, streaming a game each week all season long in VR for League Pass subscribers and introducing NBA AR, a virtual pop-a-shot app for the iPhone, and NBA InPlay, a fantasy game synced to live broadcasts. A two-year-old partnership with Israeli workflow automation startup WSC Sports Technologies has increased instantly shareable highlight clips from about 100 per week to more than 10,000, contributing to a record number of video views (12 billion) for the league last season. In May, the NBA will get even more virtual with the debut of the 17-team NBA 2K League–the first e-sports league (for competitive and professional gamers) operated by one of the American majors.

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NBA is No. 10 on the 2018 World’s Most Innovative Companies list. Check out all 50 companies here.

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About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications

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