Up until last year, it appeared that live sports was a hedge against cord cutting and dropping ratings. But after the NFL and the Olympics suffered lower ratings in 2016, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver began looking at the problem. As younger viewers are migrating towards other platforms, he’s hoping to make sports look more like video games. Before you scoff at the idea, hear him out.

At the Code Commerce conference in New York, Silver said sports on TV have basically looked the same for 30 years, a look he compared to a “silent movie.” So to some younger viewers, the way sports is televised is not appealing. He’s suggesting that the games look more like the way video games do on Twitch, Amazon’s live gaming platform.

That means that filling the screen with live statistics and chatter from those watching in real time.  If you’re curious as to how that might play out, here are a few screenshots of people playing NBA 2K18 and Madden 18 on Twitch:

Silver says while the screen might look cluttered to some, younger viewers are already used to it thanks to Twitch.

The thing is, are the NBA’s TV partners, ESPN and Turner Sports, willing to make such a radical change to their production models? Their contracts don’t expire until 2025, so unless they’re willing to change, it’s likely that you won’t see different looks there.

But Silver said once those deals expire, he can turn to the tech companies that have used new ideas for their media presentations:

“The best sales pitch to us is how they’re going to find new ways to engage our fans in these telecasts.”

So we’re in a transition period for sports on television. Adam Silver wants to see sports produced differently. Will ESPN and Turner take that step with him, or will the NBA commish have to wait until the next decade to see his vision enacted? Only time will tell.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.