NBA Expands on Viewer Tech Developed in the Bubble

Jacob Feldman
·2 min read

The NBA’s bubble era may be behind it, but many of the tech innovations the league trotted out in Orlando are sticking around.

When the basketball season starts next week, NBA app users will find a redesign featuring new elements, including interactive game overlays as well as alternate streams featuring betting information, alternate angles and influencer commentary.

After offering 12 BetStream broadcasts to digital viewers during last season’s restart, the NBA will continue collaborating with the likes of Bleacher Report, The Action Network and Yahoo Sports on the product for select games. Also continuing from the bubble days is the league’s Rail Cam, which will be used at certain sites where fans are not present. Following a handful of experimental, social media-friendly alternative presentations this summer, podcasters Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux will now be calling games weekly for NBA League Pass.

“We really used Orlando as a way to test out a number of new enhancements for our game, and accelerate a lot of the innovation we were doing prior to the bubble,” said NBA Head of Next Gen Telecast Sara Zuckert.

In a normal year, the NBA uses its annual Summer League as a testing ground for new tech. This time, Zuckert said, it approached the bubble with a similar philosophy. The league has also used its international user base as a lab for digital elements. After successful tests there, it is adding new interactive elements to game feeds, including the ability to watch highlights from earlier in the game, something Amazon and YouTube TV—among others—have built in for other sports.

Certain games will also come with a trivia overlay that will allow fans to compete with each other. With the domestic and international audiences now using a unified app experience, “fans can look forward to new looks and feels for our interactive elements over the course of the season,” Zuckert said.

As for traditional broadcasts, the league is handing control of in-venue audio back to home teams, who will use pre-recorded fan reactions similar to those heard in the Orlando bubble. Players will also likely be heard before the game, speaking with broadcasters during warmups, following discussions with the players association.

Said Zuckert, “Without the bubble experience, we couldn’t have implemented all these innovations all at once.”

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