When it opened its NBA Entertainment facilities in Secaucus, N.J., nearly a decade ago, the NBA took serious control of its image. Weekly programs like Inside Stuff gave fans a close look at the league's players and coaches and blazed a trail in non-game sports programming. Behind the scenes, the league built a huge library of game action and targeted the Web as an important way to reach fans. Now, NBA Entertainment is working on its next big project: an HD network to launch in 2005. B&C's Ken Kerschbaumer spoke with Steve Hellmuth, senior vice president, operations and technology, about his team's latest projects.
Where do you see NBA TV in the landscape of sports channels?
It's a 24/7 resource for NBA fans that are interested in the entire league: its operations, players and breaking news. Those are the big subjects at NBA TV, along with a slate of 93 games this year that give fans a mini-national look at the NBA on nights when TNT and ESPN don't rule the airwaves.
Do the regional sports networks worry you'll pull viewers away, or does it help?
It helps. When it isn't carrying a game, it's feeding people into the NBA and out to the games. We think people view it as a dropping-off point, watching it for 20 minutes to scan the games and match-ups. It's not intended to keep viewers when games are live.
You're doing HDTV games on InDemand, DirecTV, EchoStar. What's the strategy?
This year, we'll be doing 50 four-hour blocks of HD. But next year, we want to start an HD network.
What will that require?
We'll need to build an HD hosting facility and upgrade our HD editing capability.
Will that change your relationship with other HD sports networks like ESPN?
Absolutely. We're already a partner with ESPN, trading HD footage on a daily basis.
Will all regional networks be HD in 2005?
It depends on the competition in a market in relation to DBS.