In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that the decline of linear TV has disproportionately impacted the league’s reach. “We recognize that, in some ways, the decline of cable has disproportionately impacted the NBA,” Silver said. “Our young audience isn’t subscribing to cable, and those fans aren’t finding our games.” To combat this, the NBA is working on alternatives to cable to provide their fans with more ways to watch their games. One being their newly announced partnership with Playback.
Playback is a sports live-streaming platform started in 2020 with their main goal being, “to build a better way to watch sports.” They believe that the key to improving the sports watching experience is to make it more social. Their method of achieving this is creating a platform that marries the traditional sports-watching experience with the communities cultivated by the over 10,000+ sports content creators.
Playback founder and CEO RJ Halperin analogizes his platform with the sports bar viewing experience. “What if instead of switching channels to watch different games, you could switch between different sports bars?” Halperin said. “Click a button and it’s you and 200 Liverpool fans singing and dancing while watching a match. Click again and your favorite Golden State Warriors podcaster is on stage adding their commentary to a game. Press a different button and you’re listening to a DFS expert talk through line ups before NFL RedZone kicks off.”
Playback and the NBA announced on Thursday that they are partnering to, “reach the next generation of NBA fans.” Through the partnership, NBA League Pass subscribers will be able to watch live NBA broadcasts on Playback with commentary from their favorite basketball creators like the No Dunks Podcast hosts, The Dunker Spot, Steve Jones and Nekias Duncan of The Dunker Spot, and many more.
Even former NBA star turned basketball media magnet Gilber Arenas will be a creator on the platform. “It’s the barbershop,” Arenas said. “It’s how we watch with our friends. For me, this is groundbreaking.” Arenas floated the idea of bringing on other former NBA stars like Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace and more to commentate with him over some of their greatest moments and highlights.
Many are relating this innovation to the NFL’s “Manning Cast” where Eli and Peyton Manning, along with varying guests, commentate over NFL broadcasts. The Manning Cast has been a continued success for the NFL, with the brothers scheduled to simulcast alongside 10 games this season.
Historically, the NBA has been very good at staying on the forefront of innovation and this is arguably their best idea yet. The sports creator space is massive. Thousands of content creators reach tens of millions of viewers with their content. Most of the content creators making the leap to Playback grew their audiences on YouTube, so it will likely be a similar viewer base following their favorite creators to the new platform. Over 77% of YouTube’s viewers are between the ages of 15-35, the ideal age for what the NBA is trying to target.
As Gen-Z gets older, their preferences will become king for broadcasters trying to reach the largest audience possible. Adults ages 18 to 24, right in the middle of Gen Z, spend the least amount of time watching traditional TV of any age group, only watching an average of 51 minutes a day. Over 50% of Gen Z spends more than three hours a day on social media, with YouTube being the top platform for more than 25% of them. These statistics make one thing very clear: the social media creator-focused model is the future of entertainment.
The league knows that they need to reach young people, and young people want a social basketball viewing experience. The partnership between the NBA and Playback is their first step towards achieving that.