It’s looking increasingly likely that the NBA will be the first of the Big 3 professional leagues to be back playing games. Maybe that’s only fitting since the league was the first to shut down due to COVID-19, prompting most every other sport to follow suit.
How will the broadcasts go once the NBA resumes play in July? There already won’t be any fans in attendance, but to further reduce the number of people in the arena during games, broadcasters will likely be on the outside looking in. Cameras operated robotically might provide the visuals. And announcers could call the games from remote locations.
TNT’s Kevin Harlan discussed the likely setup SiriusXM NBA Radio with Tom Byrne and Amin Elhassan recently, which Richard Deitsch included in his Media Circus column for The Athletic.
“What I’ve heard from the folks at TNT is we will be in the studios in Atlanta and they will set up as close to possible a broadcast table like we would have courtside,” Harlan said.
“The one thing I have heard is that not until the conference finals would there be any consideration for broadcasters being in this setting. That might be the first time that an actual broadcaster might be on-site, doing a conference final, and of course, the NBA Finals.”
Harlan also explained that whatever crowd noise is used for the telecasts (possibly from the NBA 2K video game) will probably also be played in the announcers’ headsets.
The plan is for the NBA to restart on July 31 at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. The regular season will wrap up with 22 teams playing an eight-game schedule and a possible play-in tournament for the eighth seed in each conference. Then the playoffs will determine the 2019-20 NBA champion.
Several MLB announcers have reportedly been told that they’ll call road games remotely if baseball plays its 2020 season. ESPN’s Matt Vasgersian said he’s been preparing for broadcasting from a studio throughout the COVID-19 shutdown.
Remote broadcasts will almost certainly be standard operating procedure throughout sports as part of preventative COVID-19 measures. So it’s no surprise that the NBA’s television partners have been planning accordingly.