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Revamped NBA App is a Showcase for Social Video & Original Content

Last Updated: September 28, 2022
The new product places even bigger emphasis on live coverage, alternate streams, original docuseries, and an extensive vault of classic NBA games.

The NBA launched its new, revitalized app on Tuesday, a culmination of a nearly three-year process that brings users more vertical social video and introduces the league’s new membership program, NBA ID.

Created in coordination with Microsoft‘s Azure platform starting in late 2019 and early 2020, the app is a product of NBA Digital, the league’s partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery.

“It’s really been a mindset shift change from the top down in terms of how we look at how we look at our digital products, but our approach to the business holistically,” Andrew Yaffe, the NBA’s Senior Vice President and Head of Social, Digital, and Original Content, told Boardroom. “That includes content, our partnerships, our range of business. We think it’s a really holistic shift.”

NBA ID will be free to join and will link existing league products like NBA League Pass, fantasy, and NBA Pick’Em, as well as provide exclusive benefits and rewards. There will be original content, classic games from the NBA vault, members-only voting campaigns, and other location-based promotions like contests, sweepstakes, and ticket discounts.

Fans will have the opportunity to customize their app experience with the “For You” function, which will ask users for their favorite teams and players and then provide customized content and highlights based off those specifications. League Pass and NBA TV will be integrated into the app, giving fans the ability to watch live games and highlights and check scores, statistics, and standings, all in one place.

Leveraging the popularity of vertical social video on apps like Instagram and TikTok, the NBA app will prioritize vertical video and integrate stories to the top of its page. During the season, each game will be shown as a story on the top of the homepage and will include 10-second video highlights — cropped vertically in real time — of the action thus far with a prompt at the end to watch the game live on NBA League Pass, which notably returns in 2022-23 at a lower $99 price point for the season.

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“If this platform’s really going to be successful, then it has to feel similar to the way our fans are consuming our content,” Bob Carney, the NBA’s Senior Vice President of Social and Digital content, told Boardroom. “So, for us, it was a fairly logical conclusion that the free experience in the app needs to more mirror what our fans are consuming every day, especially if we’re gonna use our social media presence as one of the primary drivers. So when a fan leaves social media to come into our experience, we want that to feel seamless.”

In a massive years-long undertaking, the league created over 100 custom content package types to live on the app in the For You section divided into three overarching categories: highlights, all access, and lifestyle. That will include vertical content packages like fantastic finishes, gametime pregame, behind-the-scenes access, buzzer-beaters, fan’s-eye views, mic’d-up players, and even feature packages of players from all over the world, like every basket made by Toronto Raptors All-Star and Cameroon native Pascal Siakam. Meanwhile, the app’s lifestyle section will bring series like player fashion, pregame entrances, hip-hop culture, sneakers, and celebrity row.

The NBA invested not only more human resources from its offices in New Jersey and Atlanta to support the new app, but also expanded its partnership with AI cloud platform WSC Sports for automated highlights and content in the vertical format. The humans in New Jersey and Atlanta will be curating content collections you can’t really automate, Carney said, while highlights will mainly be automated with WSC technology doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

Each NBA game will have at least five of these vertical highlight franchises, with as many as 15-20 for marquee matchups. The league will follow the data on how many content franchises stick, test as many as possible, see what’s working based on user feedback, and double down on what hoop fans are consuming and most excited about.

Here’s a list of other content offerings that will live on the new NBA app:

  • More than 6,000 hours of live content and programming this season, including highlight clips every night from every game and NBA TV coverage.
  • NBA CrunchTime, a whiparound NFL Red Zone-style show featuring buzzer-beaters, highlights, and live look-ins, will now live free on the app every Monday. It will be hosted by Jared Greenberg from Atlanta.
  • The app will feature NBA All-Access, an inside look at training camps from across the league starting this week.
  • Many of the league’s top content creators will be integrated into the app, including “Pick & Roll Evolution” from YouTuber Ben Taylor of Thinking Basketball and “NBA Rewind” hosted by the legendary Ahmad Rashad, Kris London, Lethal Shooter, and Tristan Jass. Turner Sports, The Action Network, and Bleacher Report will also provide content.
  • More than 500 past games from the NBA vault are available for free, including 10 classic contests from each team and every NBA Finals game since 2000.
  • New ad-supported documentary series will be free on the app, led by original series “Gold Blooded,” an inside look at the Golden State Warriors‘ championship run narrated by Andre Iguodala and helmed by The Last Dance executive producer Andy Thompson. Other series will include “Hoop Cities” — an eight-part, in-language docuseries about the history, culture, and basketball communities in Belgrade, Bologna, Cologne, Leverkusen, Istanbul, Kaunas, Paris, Seville, and Thessaloniki — and “Pass The Rock,” a show about the next generation of superstars slated to begin in late November. Archived series like the Julius Erving documentary The Doctor, Inside Stuff, and Wilt 100 will also be available.
  • Pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage from regional sports networks from across the league will now be available for free on the app. That includes studio shows, press conferences, warmups on the floor, and even in-arena halftime entertainment.
  • NBA League Pass will continue alternate streams like NBABet streams, NBA HooperVision with Nate Robinson and Quentin Richardson, and analytics-driven and influencer feeds. There will also be select game broacasts during the season in Spanish, Portuguese, and Korean.

In short, the league wants the NBA app to be the best one-stop shop for basketball content.

“We see all of these amazing communities all over these other platforms, like NBA Twitter, NBA Reddit, and they’re all amazing,” Carney said. “But there isn’t one destination today that takes every content input from across the entire NBA ecosystem that puts it all in one place.”

All told, the league has now put itself in a position not only to offer all these new features and functions for its fans, but to integrate emerging technologies like AR and VR (and whatever comes next) seamlessly into this newest iteration of the app.

“This investment and approach is so critical to the adaptability that we now have that wherever the data’s pointing us to, wherever the fans are pointing us, wherever the technological trends are going,” Yaffe said. “We’re now much better equipped to respond to that.”

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.