Twitter doesn’t stream NBA games, but soon it will stream parts of NBA games — just not the parts you usually watch on TV from the NBA’s traditional broadcast partners like Turner and ESPN.
Instead of streaming a full game with all the players, graphics, and announcers, starting in February Twitter will stream the second half of some NBA games — yes, only the second half — but the camera will focus on a single player.
During the first half of the game — the half you can’t watch on Twitter — users on the social network can vote at the @NBAonTNT Twitter account on which player they want the camera to focus on in the second half — the half you can watch on Twitter.
Whichever player “wins” will be the sole focus of the second-half live stream, which the NBA is calling “iso-cam.” If that player goes to the bench or fouls out, Twitter users will see the regular game, but from a camera located behind one of the backboards instead of from the typical mid-court angle.
The deal, which is clearly an experiment, reflects the quandary facing TV executives today: As more and more people stop paying for traditional TV, professional sports leagues and their broadcast partners are trying to figure out how to translate great TV content, like live sports, to places that aren’t television, like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Google.
At the same time, rights holders like Turner are trying to protect the content they pay billions of dollars annually to broadcast on TV.
Which is why you see partnerships like this, where Twitter gets a version of something that people actually want to watch (NBA basketball), but Turner keeps the part that actually drives people to tune in (the NBA basketball game).
Still, there’s a scenario in which this deal could work for all sides.
If NBA fans see value in watching a LeBron James “iso-cam” on Twitter while simultaneously watching Turner’s broadcast of the Lakers game on television, everyone wins. Twitter, which will pay the NBA and Turner for the right to stream these games, according to a source, also wants to sell sponsorships around the live streams. Those sponsorships could be commercial breaks or pre-roll ads before the stream starts, and if Twitter does sell them, it will share that revenue with Turner and the NBA, according to a Twitter spokesperson. More revenue for everyone.
There’s another scenario, too: NBA fans may decide that watching an NBA game without nine players in view doesn’t make much sense. In which case, back to the drawing board.
The deal encompasses 20 games, including at least one playoff game, and will start in mid-February with the NBA’s annual All-Star game.