There will be no fans filling the courtside seats during the NBA’s restart in Orlando.
Instead, the faces of fans watching from home will be on video boards around the court.
“So what you’ll see in the arena are opportunities for fans to interact, to be seen in the arena and to have hundreds of fans be able to appear on the video boards surrounding the court,” Mark Tatum, deputy commissioner of the NBA, said during a conference call with reporters on Friday.
The league hasn’t released the details on how that would work (and how it would be screened and monitored), although expect it to be through NBA.com and the NBA app.
From the start of this “campus” restart plan without fans in attendance, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about finding new ways to get fans engaged. The details on what that will look like started to come out on Friday.
“While [fans] won’t be physically in the arenas, we play with a deepened communal connection to sports with a more networked and immersive experience, using, for example, unique never-before-seen camera angles and amped audio of players and coaches, personalized alternative streams with statistical overlays, chat functions and social influencers, attachments to your app that lights up the arena in the team’s colors, along with virtual concerts and halftime performances,” Silver said.
It’s a challenge for the league because different fans want different things. Follow the hard-core NBA junkies on Twitter and the consensus is they want no piped-in crowd noise or other distractions. They want to hear the trash talk, the coach making play calls, defenders calling out picks, and everything else that happens on the court. Other fans want the broadcast to look and feel more like a video game, with social commentary happening in real-time and statistics popping up on the screen.
It sounds like the league is trying to set up personalized streams that allow fans to get what they want from a stream.
Of course, there will be plenty of advertising on and around the court no matter how you watch — this return is all about the money.
“There will also be corporate advertising and partners, both by the local teams and national partners, as well, which you would see nationally and locally televised games,” Tatum said. “So we are working with our corporate partners to ensure that they have the appropriate placements on the court and different marketing and advertising opportunities.”
The advertising is one of the few things that will make these fanless NBA games look and feel like a normal NBA game.