Step aside, SpongeBob. Move over, Mannings. During Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and the rest of the Inside the NBA crew will be the latest entrant in the growing world of alternate game telecasts.
They’ll be joined by Draymond Green on TBS for “Inside the All-Star Game” while a more traditional broadcast is offered on TNT. The altcast will also feature live audio from Steph Curry, Ja Morant, and other players in the game in a show that will attempt to mix casual conversation with new levels of access.
“We do our shows with those guys talking ‘with’ and not ‘at’: That’s why the fans are really engaged with the show,” Turner Sports chief content officer Craig Barry said. “We’ve been thinking about a way to use them during a live event, and eventize an event, where you could spend the evening with them and just hear them talk about the game that’s going on.”
Having access to Green, who is missing the game due to a back injury, was the final impetus Barry needed to give the concept a go. The broadcast will generally have the analysts in a small display box while the game takes up most of the screen.
“This gives an opportunity for a more casual fan to engage on a platform that they will be more entertained by, potentially,” Barry said. “If it really does create a fan experience and people are interested in it and people engage with it … then absolutely, maybe there’s an opportunity to do it again.”
Turner Sports has experimented with alternate presentations for years, including team-specific options for NCAA tournament games. But the concept has picked up steam across the industry over the last couple of years. Last week, ESPN announced an expanded deal with the Mannings that will bring altcasts to UFC, college football and golf coverage. The NBA has also offered alternate commentary options via League Pass, the league’s subscription streaming service.
Inside the NBA represents one of the biggest existing sports media brands to present an altcast. Host Ernie Johnson has been winning awards for the show since long before many NFL on Nickelodeon viewers were born.
“There’s a certain following that goes with Inside the NBA, people that love the show and love the guys,” Barry said. “This creates another opportunity for those fans to see these guys on a different platform.”