Digital Sportsplay: NBA Looking to Further Engage Viewers With New App

The refreshed NBA App. (Image credit: NBA)

With the 2022-23 NBA season in full swing, the league is looking to drive a deeper connection with its fans through its newly redesigned NBA App. The free, integrated digital platform — built in partnership with Microsoft — for the first time provides fans direct access to its NBA League Pass out-of-market game package as well as its NBA TV linear cable channel.

Through the app’s free NBA ID membership program, fans can access benefits and rewards from the league as well as its teams and partners, league officials said. Fans can watch live games as well as all pregame and postgame NBA press conferences and media days from every major event.  

With a nod to social media, the App’s new ‘For You’ offering will offer fan preferences and personalization, as well as a vertical video scrolling of content that features real-time highlights of all NBA games in progress.  

On the content side, the App will offer 500 of the best classic games in NBA history as well as every NBA Finals game since 2000. Also, documentary series such as Dream Team, The Doctor, Wilt 100 and NBA Inside Stuff will be available. 

Already the app has scored with viewers: Video views on the app were up nearly 300% globally during the first week of the NBA season in mid-October compared to last year, the league said.

NBA senior VP of media operations and technology Ken DeGennaro spoke with Multichannel News about the revamped NBA App and its appeal to viewers. Here’s an edited transcript of that conversation. 

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MCN: What initially prompted the league to revamp its digital app? 

Ken DeGennaro: With the shift from linear viewing habits to a little bit more digital viewing habits, we felt as though this was the right time to bring the technology staff up on resourcing to be able to build the app to deliver and innovate with a very fan- first mindset. Throughout the pandemic, as things slowed, we continued to invest in the new platform all the way through our launch of the app this past September. All of the technology has been replaced and is now fully cloud-delivered. We have a new partner, Microsoft and its Azure cloud, to help power the application. Now we’re able to get both implicit and explicit responses back from our fans and tailor our experience to that of the individual fan. A good example of that is our ‘For You’ feed, which is a personalized feed featuring content, games and other information tailored to that particular fan based on some of the signals of data that they’ve explicitly told us around their favorite teams and players, as well as some of the behaviors that we recognize just through the usage of the NBA App. 

MCN: Have you seen an uptick in usage among fans since you’ve rolled out the new app? 

KD: We’ve had a wonderful response from our fans. The engagement and usage of the application services and features throughout have been significantly more than we’ve seen historically.

MCN: How important has the integration of League Pass and NBA TV into the app been in terms of that increased response from fans?

KD: It certainly makes it easier to be an NBA fan, right? If you want NBA content, you now know where to go and where to get it. We are learning more and more about the fan and what content we should service, and also drive some discovery of things that fans might not have necessarily considered in the first instance. The other things we’ve really been focusing on are the quality of the experience, that the application works well and that our video gives a premium experience to our fans. 

MCN: How important is it for a league such as the NBA to have a quality, interactive digital app as part of its outreach to fans?

KD: It’s critical to us for us to be able to learn more about how our fans want to interact with our content. Most fans are interested in the game content, but there are a lot of fans that are interested in the content around the game, from the lifestyles and wardrobes of the players all the way to the players’ interests on and off the court. We’re learning more and more about what the fans are interested in, and we’re going to continue to serve all of them at the right levels with the right amount of content for their set of interests. It’s about driving engagement on a personalized level. ■ 

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.