Last night, when I saw that the NFL Redzone channel is going to be available on mobile phones in the near future, it got me thinking. Why can’t the NBA have something like this?
For me, the NFL Redzone channel is actually pretty disorienting. The way I’ve grown accustomed to watching football is with the traditional ebb and flow of a game. A long, methodical drive down the field that culimnates with touchdown. That’s what I love about football; there’s a natural flow to it, that’s pretty fascinating. And then when a team breaks that flow with a long touchdown pass or a crucial interception, it’s that much more exciting and shocking.
On the redzone channel, it’s sort of disorienting to just constantly be watching touchdowns and teams within the 20 yardline. Like, it’s cool to see all these big plays, but it’s almost overkill. Suddenly, watching football turns into watching a home run derby. All these plays that used to prompt ecstasy are rendered ordinary, and it’s not quite as fun. But that’s just me. For most every other football fan I’ve talked to, the NFL Redzone has become an indispensable aspect of the fan experience.
So where’s the NBA Redzone Channel? Where an NFL Redzone Channel is a little disorienting, the format would be PERFECT for pro basketball. Watching an entire pro basketball game is difficult for most sports fans, just because regular season games can sometimes take on sort of a lifeless atmosphere. Like, every sports fan I know respects the NBA and its players, but not many people I know actually watch that many games. This is because in an era of short attention spans, regular season pro basketball doesn’t measure up.
Which is why we need a RedZone-type channel for basketball. This has always been David Stern’s problem. He’s so worried about “growing the game” and taking the NBA to places like Asia and Africa, he forgets to sell the game here. Beyond the rabid base of basketball-obsessed fans, there’s not many people that watch regular season basketball on a regular basis, at least compared to football. And why should win football win that battle outright?
Among basketball fans, a makeshift service already exists for this type of thing. Whenever a game is close or otherwise noteworthy, someone will use Twitter to send out a #LeaguePassAlert, letting fans know that they should tune in ASAP. With an NBA channel—that you could easily call League Pass Alert, by the way—a television studio could do this for us. And it doesn’t have to be restricted to end-of-fourth quarter close games.
With tip-offs already staggered at every half-hour between 7 and 10:30, it wouldn’t be difficult to jump from game to game all the way through. Take last night’s games. NBAtv broadcast the entire Lakers-Pacers game, which was never really close, and painfully uninteresting. Instead of that game, we could have been jumping from Cleveland-Minnesota to LA-Indiana, to Miami-Toronto, to Memphis and Detroit. Then later, we could have alternated between Chicago-Oklahoma City, Atlanta-San Antonio, and Utah-Portland, all good games. Who wouldn’t watch this?
Navigating the labyrinthine television agreements would be tough, and toggling between games while maintaining some level of coherence would require an expert braintrust in the NBA studios… But again, if the NFL can pull this off, what’s the difference? The NBA could share profits from the channel with TV affiliates; ultimately, the interest in the sport would grow exponentially with a channel like this. Any revenue concessions would be made up elsewhere.
People buy the NBA’s all-encompassing League Pass option for two reasons. Because a) They moved from their hometown, and still want to watch their favorite team on a nightly basis or b) they want to watch star players like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James and Dwight Howard every night. That second group is small, though, mainly because NBA League Pass is really expensive, and once you buy it, most casual fans realize that sifting through eight games-a-night is more work than it’s worth.
NBA Redzone, or League Pass Alert, would do that work for you. We wouldn't have to do away with NBA League Pass, and the NBA could still reap all the profits from League Pass, as plenty of fans will still sign up to see every game. But if the NBA took the best of league pass, crammed into one five hour block every night, and made it free, there’s no question that the NBA would suddenly see a dramatic spike in interest. People may not have the attention span to sit through an entire regular season game, the best parts of eight different games, including at least one or two close fourth quarter finishes? It’d be a home run.
There’s no red zone in basketball, but that doesn’t mean we can’t steal the RedZone channel.