Ahead of the Curve

by October 18, 2012


by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad

When it comes to social and digital media, the NBA simply blows the competition away with content, fan interaction and overall delivery. It may have seemed like the League had reached it’s ceiling after last season’s digital success, but once again the NBA is stepping their game up. NBA Digital, which achieved double-digit growth across all platforms last year, has set the stage for continued growth and innovation with the introduction of a new state-of-the-art NBA TV studio, a redesigned NBA.com home page and completely refreshed mobile sites for NBA.com and all 30 teams.

SLAMonline caught up with NBA’s SVP and GM of NBA Digital, Christina Miller, to discuss the next step for the NBA in regards to digital media.

SLAMThe NBA has been ahead of the curve when it comes to both social and digital media, was there an anticipation of the social and digital media boom?

Christina Miller: I like to think that we’re forward thinking on an ongoing basis and we’re content led. We want to make sure the fan is getting the best possible experience on all platforms which means exactly what you said; being there almost ahead of time and having some patience. I think we have momentum and have been moving in the right direction and this next chapter, so to speak, will build on that. We want to constantly reinvent our business and technology and trends move so quickly, we want to stay with them and ahead of them by providing strong fan experiences across all platforms.

It’s a rare opportunity that a company undertakes all of these platforms at one time, but it does afford us some privileges to make sure that the whole family, so to speak, fits together. Whether that’s the new set, the mobile site, the new website, our digital products, everything is partial to the same terrific brand—the NBA. Having all of this done at one time made sure that this was the case.

SLAMFan interaction seems to be a focal point in within the NBA, especially through social media platforms, do you think that’s what makes the sport so popular worldwide?

CM: I definitely think it’s a huge contributor in bringing more fans into the brand both globally and domestically. When you look at our social connections, we’re at about 320 million strong between “Likes” and “Follows”, and that amplifies the whole brand and ensures that we’re making that sort of connection easy and leveraging that lifestyle which is so critical to our fan in everything we’re doing.

Whether it’s on the set, with a new touch screen or the fact that we’ll be very socially integrated on that set as well. Whether you look at the mobile redesign or the page redesign, all the social hooks are so intuitive and easily searched that it’s a natural extension of the brand and we wanted to make sure that that was prevalent and intuitive in this design.

SLAMThat segues into my next question: With those 320+ million followers, how much room for growth is there?

CM: I think there’s a lot of room for growth, truthfully. It’s as much about platforms and innovation and new platforms are always available and launching. Participating in those platforms, whether it’s Instagram or some other new outlet, there’s different platforms out there where our fans interact. I think there’s plenty of room for growth, there’s a lot of new people coming into the brand this way and we’re making sure the content is naturally integrated which will only help accelerate that growth.

SLAMNBA TV is continually the best as far as strict sport coverage, what do you guys have in store this season? What’s going to keep you ahead of the curve in that realm?

CM: When you look at our show The Association this year, we’re taking on the Brooklyn Nets which is a relevant story at a key moment. We’re so excited to be part of this historical, inaugural year covering the team, the community and the location itself. That series is evolving as well, there’s more episodes and exclusive online content, creating a bigger experience.

We also have this multiplatform initiative called Rooks which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s all about the Rookie class. It started on draft day, we made sure to introduce the rookie class, there’s always new videos being posted. A new video of Anthony Davis just went up, it follows their experience from everything like blogging to linear TV specials to constant, new fresh content. The series includes everybody on their journey over the first year which is a new cross-platform initiative which is performing really well out of the gate. I think adding items like that which really speak to our core tenants of access, accuracy and authenticity, being able to cover the players and the game only like we can since we have 24/7 to do it across these platforms.

SLAMHow much does the fan influence your content? How much of their reaction goes into what you guys do?

CM: I think it always does. If you look at the new NBA TV set itself and look at the talent we have on our air and online, it’s really helpful that we have the ability for people to get up and demonstrate. Earlier this week, Karl Malone was on-air demonstrating the pick and roll. Having the space to do that is important to us.

Having touch screen and being able to integrate the social content right there in real time, interacting with all of that technology as part of the NBA TV studio set is a critical piece in bringing the experience to life every single day. Then extending it to NBA.com and all the mobile sites so that content is moving and exclusive in some places and the total of that content creates an even richer, more immersive experience.

SLAMHow will programming (shows and segments like Game Time, Fan Night, The Jump, The Beat and Fantasy Insider) change with the new set?

CM: The actual space itself has been redesigned, it’s now 5,000 square feet and is meant to be a 360 degree immersive environment that is very versatile. Whether you’re shooting Game Time or The Jump or Fan Night, or looking at social interaction or fantasy, you’re able to give it a deeper more immersive feel and use technology to your advantage for that experience. The new set sets that up.

In addition to that, we have a full regulation court, authentic hardwood floor. Having the likes of Steve Smith, and guys like Shaq, Karl Malone, Dennis Scott—you go through the roster of talent that comes in and out of our studio and being able to see them demo in that space is the big difference between us and everyone else in that marketplace.

SLAMWhat is the ultimate goal with NBA Digital?

CM: The goal is to continue to deliver growth and new ways to interact with the brand and everything to be about a full content experience. Whether you chose to consume NBA content on TV on our mobile site or with one of our broadcast partners, you get the experience you want anyway you want it.