NBA CrunchTime NBA CrunchTime

Whiparound shows going from game to game in many sports have long been a thing, with the popularity of the two different flavors of NFL RedZone a big part of that. Among others, we’ve seen a college football/baseball/softball version at ESPN, MLB versions at MLB Network, MLB.TV, Fox Sports, DAZN, and Bally Sports, a NHL version at NHL Network a UEFA Champions League version on CBS Sports Network, and a NBA version at NBA TV. That last one, NBA CrunchTime, has been rolling there on since 2015, but it has an interesting move Monday; this edition will air exclusively on the NBA app, and will air without commercials. Host Jared Greenberg tweeted about that Monday:

This is interesting on a couple of fronts. For one thing, going commercial-free is a big deal, and something that makes this much closer to the NFL RedZone offerings than much of what we’ve seen in other sports. (We don’t see that more often because most sports programming is monetized at least largely through advertising; the RedZone offerings are not, instead monetized on subscriptions sold through DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket package or through the NFL Network’s alternative package.) And there’s certainly some appeal there for viewers; with no commercials to disrupt the flow, this is just several hours of basketball. And with eight games Monday, there should be plenty of interesting moments to pick from in those games; yes, as the then-Starters and Ernie Johnson noted in 2017, it’s not possible to hit every scoring play in a basketball whiparound, but there’s a case for focusing on the most important ones across games.

Beyond that, it’s notable that a shift to the app likely broadens the universe of people who can check this out. As per the listings of Nielsen January 2022 carriage estimates John Ourand of  Sports Business Journal published earlier this month, NBA TV is in an estimated 43,592,000 homes, down from 49,665,000 two years ago. That drop of around 6 million homes isn’t the largest overall shift in that timeframe (ESPNU lost 15.8 million homes, and even top cable networks with sports like TBS and TNT lost 7.1 and 6.6 million homes respectively), but it’s significant considering that NBA TV’s distribution wasn’t even that high before this drop. (And that’s despite it, unlike many other networks, having full over-the-top access as an option since 2019.) And it’s understandable why that’s led to a lot of responses to Greenberg excited about this as a new idea, and to a lot of people previously calling for a NBA RedZone show even while the NBA TV version of this one existed.

While broadcasting a show like this on an app isn’t necessarily going to outdraw what it would get on linear TV (although that’s certainly at least possible, especially on a less-distributed channel like NBA TV) in terms of pure viewers, it does come with less of a hurdle for many particular potential viewers who might want to check this out. And given that this is likely targeted at a younger audience in the first place, the “how to figure out how to watch something on streaming” barrier isn’t as significant as it might be in some of the other cases where we’ve seen people upset about streaming-exclusive games. It’s also notable that there is a long history of NBA viewers looking for particularly exciting moments late in games, going back to the #leaguepassalert Twitter hashtag used for much of the last decade, so there already would seem to be some demand for this. The commercial-free, app-exclusive NBA CrunchTime broadcast here may be a good chance for the NBA to figure out just how extensive that demand is.

[Jared Greenberg on Twitter; NBA CrunchTime graphic via Sling TV]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.