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NBA Finals: Broadcasting Oklahoma City across the globe

THUNDER-HEAT -- The NBA's popularity reaches far beyond the United States. Here's an inside look at how NBA Entertainment is taking Kevin Durant and LeBron James live to 215 countries and territories in 47 languages.
BY GINA MIZELL gmizell@opubco.com Modified: June 13, 2012 at 9:59 pm •  Published: June 13, 2012

In 1991, George Eddy sat in The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., ready to broadcast Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls — in French.

“I'm doing this game, Michael (Jordan) vs. Magic (Johnson), on French TV live,” Eddy recalled. “A dream come true for me, personally. And a chance, also, to help this whole French viewing audience sort of discover something that, at the time, was sort of extraplanetary.”

At the time, France, Mexico and Italy were the only international countries to broadcast the NBA Finals. But as professional basketball has exploded internationally, so has its coverage around the globe, as the games between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat will be broadcast live in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages.

How it goes down

A peek inside the NBA Entertainment live truck — which features more than 100 monitors and about 40 crew members — gives an inside look at what it takes to broadcast the game to the world.

Its motto? “Keeping the world happy, one country at a time, one game at a time.”

It starts with the base ABC broadcast, which makes up 90 percent of each international show. But the crew must fill up timeouts and commercial breaks with additional content, since most of the network's promos and advertisements do not make sense outside of the U.S.

“What we're trying to do is act like an HBO,” said Tim Kane, NBA Entertainment's senior director of broadcasting and international production. “We're always on the air. We don't go away to commercial.

“So during the timeouts, we'll run features, we'll look to show the entertainment on the court. It's a mix of highlights, features and really trying to give every broadcaster in the 215 countries, end to end, a continuous show.”

Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, also allow more than 278 million fans around the world to follow and immediately respond to the NBA Finals.

The international flavor of the NBA Finals — which includes more than 270 media members from 34 countries on-site in Oklahoma City and Miami — was evident after Game 1. Serge Ibaka, who is from the Republic of Congo and represents Spain in international competition, answered more than 30 percent of his postgame interview questions in a language other than English.

And it's yet another way the Thunder's success allows Oklahoma City to gain worldwide exposure.

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