At the recent SportsPro OTT Summit in Madrid, I spoke to Ralph Rivera, Executive Director of the National Basketball Association (NBA) for Europe and the Middle East.
He’s a man who brings incredible experience from stints at AOL, Eurosport, the BBC and now one of the biggest sports leagues in the world. We talked about the NBA’s international approach to growth and specifically how the newly launched app will transform the way fans engage with the league.
Here are my top takeaways…
1. The role of mobile devices changes by market
Rivera said the phone will only be the key to life if it has the “biggest screen available.” He explained that the role of mobile in Western markets is primarily to drive engagement and consumption of the non-live product.
2. The NBA app should become the central one-stop shop
The NBA’s new platform was unveiled in September with Microsoft as a key partner and will include a variety of live and non-live content made available to fans. The numbers are impressive: the app drove a 50 percent increase in watch hours, a 150 percent increase in video views, and a 41 percent increase in subscriptions on the platform. The next phase will be to roll out merch, ticketing and NFT-like offerings like TopShot to give fans a single destination for all their needs.
Do you already have the new NBA app? Download your one-stop source for everything happening in the NBA today!
– NBA (@NBA) October 20, 2022
3. The new NBA ID could be a game changer
The idea of opening up your data for access is nothing new, but the NBA really seems to understand the need for a value swap. It therefore takes first-party data to the next level by giving fans additional community or member-based incentives when they sign up for its new NBA ID offering. This ID also makes it much easier for the league to connect the dots between platforms and products, ensuring they have a more reliable understanding of their target audience and a complete view of their customers.
4. A new wave of international stars is attracting broadcasters’ interest
When a new foreign star like Nikola Jokić, Giannis Antetokounmpo or Luka Dončić comes on stage, broadcasters are often the first to respond to the opportunity. As a result, the balance of power in the media rights negotiations is fundamentally shifting away from the broadcasters and towards the NBA. It’s clear that the growth of international players in the NBA, which includes more than 120 players from 40 countries, is having a tremendously positive impact on the growth of the league and its audience.
5. Localization and personalization are key to attracting attention
There is much talk in the industry about the need for personalization, but few will have a more important level in their proposal than the NBA. US vs Europe will be more live vs. non-live focused, but of course in markets with big European stars, the NBA will need to weight their content differently to ensure Slovenian fans get an extra dose of Luka Doncic, Serbia with Jokić and so on get on
It sounds obvious in theory, but in practice, high-quality personalization on this scale is still in its infancy across the industry. The NBA works with partners like Microsoft and Mediakind to provide this type of tailored experience.
6. Team-based subscriptions could be on the way
With the recent addition of the Los Angeles Clippers’ Clipper Vision to the NBA app, we’ve seen a potential game changer. Teams have sold their rights to local broadcasters in the past, but could now move their rights to a central location. This could be the catalyst for other teams to follow, so fans can start subscribing to streaming services that exclusively cover their team and not be forced to sign up for a league-wide service regardless of their interest.
7. Vertical video makes an impact
The NBA made a conscious choice to prioritize more vertical formats, and this has contributed to a 150 percent increase in video consumption surrounding its non-live content. The league also offers access to vertical views for certain live games as one of the options on the platform.
The NBA app streams all LNB games featuring top draft prospect Victor Wembanyama
8. The NBA is moving towards aggregation
The NBA recently signed a deal with the French Pro League to show live games featuring expected future No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama. Rivera said the NBA is in talks with other leagues for similar access, so expect more competition to be available on the NBA’s platforms in the years to come.
9. The revamped live approach has given the NBA and its broadcasters more flexibility
The NBA has worked with partners like Mediakind to help them process the 100+ unique streams of live content they may have on any given night. And the pivotal decision to move broadcasting from satellite to IP has allowed both the league and its broadcast partners to more easily choose which games to highlight or broadcast.
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