Listen: The NBA Playbook for Changing How Games Are Watched

Jeff MarsilioVariety's Entertainment & Techonology Summit,
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With the new NBA season scheduled to tip off Oct. 22, basketball fans have no shortage of options for how they take in the action on the court. But there’s an expanding range of viewing experiences beyond linear TV that are evolving in fascinating ways.

Jeff Marsilio, senior VP of new media for the league, presides over the myriad platforms where the NBA is experimenting with altered versions of its product, from social media to virtual reality. On the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” he described his philosophy for catering to fans looking for something different than the traditional NBA experience.

“One of the things the fan base has come to expect is choice,” Marsilio said. “They have so much choice in their entertainment, so many different platforms.”

Listen to the podcast here:

Take NBA League Pass, for instance, the app that allows the league’s most ardent fans to access any NBA game anywhere on any given night (barring local blackouts). Last season, League Pass introduced functionality that allowed consumers to also purchase individual games or quarters of play. Marsilio said those options will be made available again for the 2019-2020 season now that the league has seen that the new partial offerings don’t cannibalize the core product.

“Over time, we’ve found adding more options is only additive,” he said. “Someone who purchases single games ends up being a great candidate for us to market the full package.”

Marsilio also discusses how the NBA will continue to make the occasional tweak to the format of the traditional TV presentation of NBA games, with more experiments planned, including providing alternatives to play-by-play audio and on-court camera angles. He also delves into the league’s partnership with Magic Leap, a manufacturer of augmented reality headsets that will provide radical new ways of experiencing games in three-dimensions through the magic of volumetric capture.

Said Marsilio, “This is what the future of highlights might took like. They’ll be spatial and you’ll be able to look around them, as if they were a hologram in the room with you.”

Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Past episodes include conversations with Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Dana Walden, co-head of 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Television Group. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.