The Future of Content Episode 16: Content from the Bubble

To achieve success in today’s NBA—off the court, at least—teams have to push the content envelope. For Bobby Karalla, who manages content for the Dallas Mavericks, no medium or platform is off-limits as long as it helps fans connect with the team’s superstars. This always-on visibility has become almost as important as the games themselves in advancing the league’s image worldwide.

The NBA has a unique level of visibility with its superstars because not only is the game very contained—it’s on a 94-foot-by-50-foot floor—there’s only 10 players on the floor at a time. None of them are wearing face masks. None of them are wearing helmets. They’re all very visible, so you can see these guys’ faces and facial reactions. You can hear what they’re seeing on TV. But also your best players are on the floor all the time.

Bobby Karalla, Digital Content Manager, Dallas Mavericks

As with just about everything in 2020, the NBA found itself in a pickle as the coronavirus halted play in March, just as teams were gearing up for a final playoff push. The answer was “The Bubble”: Fully confining 23 teams for months at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Due to limited press access, The Bubble provided a unique opportunity for more candid content than a normal season allows.

[Producing content in the NBA Bubble] was a unique challenge. Ordinarily, if the Mavericks go on a road trip we send up to four content people. So there’ll be one writer, there will be one person handling social media, there will be a photographer, there will be a videographer. We were allowed one spot for The Bubble and, obviously, one person couldn’t go and then come back and be replaced. I mean, we sent one guy to The Bubble for the entire time the team was there, which ended up being about two months.

Bobby Karalla, Digital Content Manager, Dallas Mavericks

Bobby Karalla

Bobby Karalla is the Digital Content Manager for the Dallas Mavericks.

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Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript may contain some minor wording and formatting errors. Apologies in advance!

[music]

[Todd] Welcome to The Future of Content. I’m your host, Todd Nienkerk. On this podcast, we explore content—its creation, management, and distribution—by talking with the people who make content possible. Our goal is to learn from diverse perspectives and industries to become better creators. The Future of Content is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We design and develop digital content solutions that get results. Today, I’m joined by Bobby Karalla from the Dallas Mavericks, and we’re going to be talking about sports content. Welcome to The Future of Content, Bobby.

[Bobby] Thank you for having me.

[Todd] Thank you. So you are a Digital Content Manager for the NBA team Dallas Mavericks. What does that mean? And what does that involve?

[Bobby] So involves a little bit of everything. And I guess my favorite aspect of the job is that it’s constantly changing. So I just wrapped up my seventh season combining part-time and full-time. And when I initially came on, my only responsibility was to produce written content for the website. So writing articles for mavs.com as well as the little pamphlets that we hand out to fans as they enter the arena on game day. But that quickly evolved into doing podcasting, doing video analysis, video editing, creating highlights that we can share both on social media in real time as the game is happening, and then also after the fact on YouTube. So it’s constantly changing to the point where I don’t really even have an official job description. I just kind of do whatever [laughter] my boss tells me to do really. But every day is different. And that’s my favorite part of it.

[Todd] So when you say sharing highlights live, are you— During a game, you are like actively working, you’re pulling highlights, you’re uploading certain plays or whatever to social media channels as the game is happening?

[Bobby] Yes. There’s actually a third-party service that we use called Clip Pro that records the game as they happen. They get it directly from the cable partner. And they will automatically— Essentially, I think there might be a little mouse sitting there that’s doing all the work or it might just be AI, I have no idea [laughter], that just puts an “in” and an “out” in the clip. And sometimes, we’ll have to start it a couple of seconds earlier and a couple of seconds later. And it’s online within two minutes. So I mean, pretty much—

[Todd] So it’s largely automated, actually?

[Bobby] Yeah. I mean yeah, I believe so. I mean like I said, there might be a couple of people in lab coats sitting in there doing it [laughter]. But a lot of the NBA is [laughter]— I mean, you can do a lot of it based on AI, whether it’s due to crowd noise, or the announcer’s voice getting excited, or whatever. And then, we can sort of fine tune it from there.

[Todd] Oh.

[Bobby] And then also, too, I mean, another thing is like on Instagram, videos are more square, whereas on Twitter, they’re more either landscape or portrait. So we can kind of edit the video itself for frame size and other things like that. So it’s pretty interesting.

[Todd] And like where it’s— Where the image is centered and all of that depending on the aspect—

[Bobby] Oh, yeah, yeah.

[Todd] —ratio and channel?

[Bobby] Yes. So on a TV, it’s doing— I don’t know the dimensions of a TV. It’s closer to like 4×3 or something. But on Instagram, it’s going to be a little more square. So I guess 16×9 is a TV, whereas Instagram is 4×3. So you’re going to, you know, draw a little square and follow the ball and try and keep up with the play.

[Todd] Right. That’s cool. You are very different from, say, a sportscaster or a sports reporter because you are not commentating. You are not reporting on a game, or a team, or an entire sport, or multiple sports. You are a content producer embedded with a team, employed by a team: Dallas Mavericks. How does that team-focused content differ from broader sports content and channels like ESPN, Sports Illustrated, stuff like that?

[Bobby] So for us, we know that our audience is almost exclusively going to be either fans of the Mavericks or fans of players who are on the Mavericks. And so everything we do, we have a very narrow focus whenever we’re creating anything, whether it’s a simple highlight video or something a little more complex—an entire podcast program, certain digital or marketing campaigns that we’ll do. Everything that we do is for a pretty select group of people. And now, if you are working for ESPN or Sports Illustrated or any other national renowned outlet, your audience is sports fans who might not care about the Mavericks but might care about a player on the team or might love the Houston Rockets, who’s a big rival. And so your motives, I guess, are a little different if you’re working for a national audience because you’re targeting a much wider range of people who might not have as strong a working knowledge of the team. But if you’re a Mavericks fan, then we can kind of take for granted the fact that you know, for example, who Dorian Finney-Smith is who maybe has the seventh or eighth highest Q score on the team. But if you’re a Mavs fan, you know who that person is, and so we can get a little more specific and a little more creative with our storytelling because instead of just trying to—

[Todd] It’s fan-based content for savvy people, as opposed to a broader analysis of sports and the business of sports and all of that.

[Bobby] Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Exactly. We have a much narrower focus and our audience is much more familiar with our subject, which definitely makes our job easier. And now working for the team, it’s kind of another built-in advantage because it’s more PR and less journalism. And so there is a certain kind of element of trust with the players, I guess, with us that might not be the case for a reporter from a national outlet who the player might never have met before or might never have talked to before. Or what’s worse for the reporter is maybe they wrote something a little off-putting about that guy four years ago and the player still remembers. But with us—

[Todd] Yeah, then, here, she doesn’t want to do an interview, and then—

[Bobby] Yeah, or is very short. They’re just a very short person and just doesn’t really [laughter] care as much. But with us, because we’re not necessarily trying to make these guys look bad—and that’s not to say that every reporter is out to get every player or whatever, but there is this built-in trust—

[Todd] Their job is journalism.

[Bobby] Yeah, yeah.

[Todd] And your job is primarily marketing, right?

[Bobby] Yeah, yeah. Exactly. We’re trying to make the players look good. We’re trying to hype up our fans. And that isn’t to say— Again, reporters have papers to sell and everything and so they’re going to do a very good job. And these are professionals and everything, but the motives are just— They’re a little different, so it all kind of runs together. But that said, we still try and do as good and professional a job as possible even though we kind of have a different, I guess, desired outcome for every single project that we do.

[Todd] So the NBA seems to handle sports content a bit differently from other sports and leagues. How, in particular, is the NBA different?

[Bobby] Well, it depends on the platform. But as it relates to social media, specifically, the NBA is really kind of leaned all-in on allowing fans to pretty much do whatever they want with the broadcast and with photos, videos, all of that stuff. Whereas if you’re a baseball fan or an NFL fan and you’re watching a game on TV and your favorite player does some awesome highlight, or maybe something really insane happens and you want to tell all your friends about it on your Twitter account—and it’s the same with soccer as well—your post will get taken down. I mean, there are very strict sort of broadcast protections in place for the cable partners.

[Todd] That’s for copyright reasons.

[Bobby] Yeah, for copyright reasons, yeah. And that’s entirely their right, but the NBA kind of made this decision. I mean, I’m sure that it was consciously made, but social media has evolved so quickly that sometimes I think, maybe it just happened and they’re just okay with it. But pretty much anybody— If you’re at home watching a Mavericks game, you can just sit in front of the TV with your phone on the screen, and if something cool happens, you can post it to your Twitter timeline or your story, or timeline feed, or whatever. And nothing will happen. It won’t get taken down. You won’t get hit with the claim. Now, if you create like a YouTube channel and are making a ton of money or something for stuff that isn’t yours, then it might get flagged eventually. But the NBA has really leaned into the idea that this is kind of a fan— Fan-generated buzz is good, too. It doesn’t matter where it’s coming from as long as someone is seeing— As long as everyone is seeing what LeBron James is doing, then that’s awesome. And I think another kind of element of that and maybe another line of reasoning for why the NBA is okay with that happening is there’s a huge global audience for the league. There’s tons of fans in Europe. There’s tons of fans in Africa, and there’s a ton of fans in China, and in Japan, and in the Philippines. I mean there’s NBA fans all over the world who might not have the ability to watch the games on cable the way that somebody living in Dallas might be able to watch a Dallas Mavericks game.

[Todd] I mean, cable is not a universal option, right?

[Bobby] Yeah.

[Todd] Whereas having internet access, while definitely is not a universal ability—it’s very privileged to say, “Oh, I have an internet connection”—I bet there are more people with an internet connection than a cable subscription globally.

[Bobby] Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean every NBA game happens between 7:00 to 9:30 local time in America, whether that’s on the East Coast or the West Coast, which is fine here. Most people are awake during that time. But people living in France, or in Hong Kong, or in Australia, or in Egypt, I mean they are not awake at 4:00 in the morning. So it’s kind of cool that they can log onto their Twitter account and pretty much get the gist of any game that happened the night before without having to tune into the broadcast. And so the way the NBA views it is, look, if fans are interested, they can do whatever they want. And that I think has definitely driven specifically the younger demographic’s interest in the sport because you don’t have to have a cable package. You just have to have a Twitter account, and the barrier of entry is so much lower for that than it would be for a 500-channel, $150-a-month cable plan.

[Todd] Right. So that’s fan-created content. The NBA is, more so than other sports and leagues, cool with the idea of fans videoing stuff directly off of the TV, pulling those clips, sharing them, sharing information about the players that they like to follow, and all of that. So they’re really, I guess, open-minded, maybe kind of forward-thinking about this sharing economy of intellectual property, right, which is the gameplay in the brands, and the teams, and all of that. What about player-created content? It seems like the NBA has a lot more player-focused content?

[Bobby] Yeah, the NBA is a league of stars. And that kind of plan, again, is very intentional. So David Stern was the NBA commissioner before the current one took over, Adam Silver. Stern was commissioner for about 30 years beginning in the early to mid-1980s. And at that time, TV ratings were extremely low. And it’s not that there were 500-channel satellite plans back then. But the NBA Finals were being aired on tape delayed. Interest was just not very high. The league was still trying to establish a foothold and being able to compete with Major League Baseball and the NFL, who were kings of the sports world at the time. And David Stern decided, “Look, we are going to start marketing the stars.” The NBA has a unique level of visibility with its superstars because not only is the game very contained—it’s on a 94-foot-by-50-foot floor—there’s only 10 players on the floor at a time. None of them are wearing face masks. None of them are wearing helmets. They’re all very visible, so you can see these guys’ faces and facial reactions. You can hear what they’re seeing on TV. But also your best players are on the floor all the time. LeBron James plays 36 minutes out of a 48-minute game, and even more during the playoffs. And when he’s on the floor, the ball is in his hands. And so generally, just naturally, fans are going to kind of gravitate toward the best players. There’s a certain fascination level with these guys that there isn’t in a sport like baseball, where Mike Trout is only going to come to the plate maybe three or four times in a game, or in football, where the best wide receiver is only going to get five or six catches per game. No, this is constant activity and constant involvement. And so fans are super interested in those guys—in Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis, Luka Dončić. And so because fans are already gravitating toward those guys, and because if you’re playing 75% of the game and you’re as good as LeBron, your team is pretty much always going to win. Superstars have an extraordinary level of influence of a very broad fanbase that’s not just limited to the city that they’re playing in. And they just have this incredible reach and earning power, too. I mean, NBA salaries have spiked so significantly within the last 10 or 15 years as cable TV deals, they have increased in volume. And so players have a ton of power is basically what I’m saying. And people are more interested in LeBron James than they are in the LA Lakers. They’re arguably more interested in Luka Dončić than they are in the Dallas Mavericks.

[Todd] Well, speaking about the power that players have, this brings me to something that I’ve noticed about the NBA. I could be wrong about this, but it seems like the NBA has more so than other sports really taken hold of this moment in time, politically, and in terms of social awareness and social justice that the NBA seems to have embraced this more so than other sports. How much of that, first of all, is true? And secondly, to what extent is that because of the deeply personal nature of the NBA, and the fan- and star-relationship-driven business model of the NBA?

[Bobby] I think it has everything to do with that. And that power shift, that influence shift—I don’t necessarily know what you want to call it or how you want to label it—but players have gained that level of power, reach, influence, the audience, the kind of the courage, and the freedom to speak up only within the last 10 or 15 years. I mean this is a very new thing. And social issues have been going on forever. I mean Bill Russell, who is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, was very involved in the civil rights movement and marching with Dr. King back in the ’60s, but that was something he kind of did on his own time. That wasn’t something that the league was throwing its weight behind, or necessarily explicitly supporting or anything like that, or empowering him to do that. That was something that Bill Russell did. But now, what we saw especially with The Bubble— And this is this is extremely recent in light of everything that’s happened in 2020, not just with COVID-19, but also with police brutality and just general civil unrest, and all of these protests going on around the country. It’s something that’s deeply personal to the players, to him. And this is an overwhelmingly Black league. I mean something like 70, 80 percent of NBA players who are at least American-born are Black. And so this is something that deeply, personally touches them. And whenever you have that LeBron James, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul— These are guys who are very, very involved in these things. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the entire Milwaukee Bucks team— These guys are like boycotting games. They’re sitting out games and saying, “No, we’re not going to play today. We just want to talk about what’s going on in the world.” And that is something that would have been unheard of in the NBA even 10 years ago, 15 years ago. Again, this is a very new thing. But I just can’t imagine any other sports teams stepping up like that. The NHL, now, to its credit, the NHL kind of followed suit. MLB sort of followed suit. But this was something that was driven by NBA players who recognize the reach that they have, again, the visibility that they have, the power that their voices have. And they were going to step up whether the NBA was behind them or not. These players were going to do it no matter what. But again, to the NBA’s credit, they recognize that they are kind of nothing without their stars. LeBron James drives ratings more than any other player maybe in the history of the league outside of Michael Jordan. And so if LeBron James wants to speak out on something and if he wants to stand for something, the NBA had better go along with it. The league obviously believes that it’s right. This is the right thing, speaking out on these issues. But the league is on board whether they like it or not, they kind of have to do what LeBron and what their star players want, and their star players are trying to do the right thing. And so this is a very new thing, and not a lot of other leagues around the world and even around the country are kind of empowering the players the way the NBA is, but it is a very strategic choice, and so far, I think it’s paid off.

[Todd] And empowering them in the sense that they’re giving them a content channel, right? They’re giving them a way to speak their voice that is amplified through the league. And I guess that’s what is so— I mean, it strikes me as so unusual and positive. There’s this trope that people trot out, like, “Stick to movies.” Right? Like when a comedian—

[Bobby] Oh, yeah, “Stick to sports.” Yeah.

[Todd] —is kind of getting into politics, right, it’s like, “Stick to comedy. Make me laugh.” Actors and actresses, like, “Stick to Hollywood. Stick to movies.” And this whole, like, “Stick to playing ball.” Like, no. Just no. Sports are part of their lives. This is also part of their lives. And it’s just so cool to see an entire sports league embrace the idea that they are an amplification channel for a message.

[Bobby] Yeah. Absolutely. And, I mean, whenever the NBA restarted in The Bubble in Orlando just a couple months ago, Black Lives Matter was painted on the court. I mean, this is something that it wasn’t really kind of the league’s idea. I mean, the players were very adamant, like, “Not only do we have to signal boost these causes, but also, owners, you’d better put your money where your mouth is.” And the NBA owners have pledged, I don’t even know, something like $300 million over the course of the next 10 years to community programs and different things around the country, basically to fund— Whether it’s education reform or some type of community improvement in certain causes. But that’s all driven by the players. And so not only is it like, “Yes, LeBron James, you can go on Twitter and criticize the president or do whatever you want. You can start your own media empire, Uninterrupted, and kind of uplift your players and allow your teammates and even your competitors—”

[Todd] And for those who are unaware, Uninterrupted is the name of his media company.

[Bobby] Oh, yes, yeah, sorry, I just kind of went right into that.

[Todd] No, I mean, it makes— The context in which you said it is exactly the context in which it’s intended, which is like, “I will not be interrupted.” So the name of the company— He actually launched a media company, and he’s built it into what you’re calling an empire, with really the blessing of the NBA, right?

[Bobby] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, NBA players go on his show. I mean, he has a show called The Barbershop, where they basically just sit around in a barbershop and it’s LeBron and maybe his agent or business partners or competitors or musicians or— I mean, there’s been all sorts of people that go on that show and talk about issues of the day, whether it relates to sports or not. It could be business, it could be social, it could be political. And it’s just really hard to imagine anything like this happening 30 years ago or 20 years ago. I mean, Michael Jordan would not have even felt comfortable speaking out about this stuff.

[Todd] Right, right. Speaking of things that seemed unimaginable 10, 20 years ago, let’s take a short break, and when we return, we will continue talking with Bobby about The Bubble.

[Todd] [music] Hey, everyone. Todd here. We’ll get back to the episode in a moment, but I wanted to quickly tell you about Four Kitchens. You probably know that Four Kitchens creates websites, but we do way more than that. Our team of Web Chefs can help you make better use of your content, scale your web team, and create world-class digital experiences. And most importantly, we get results. To find out more about how Four Kitchens can help you, please visit us at fourkitchens.com. Now, back to the episode.

[Todd] [music] Welcome back to The Future of Content. Our guest today is Bobby Karalla, Digital Content Manager for the Dallas Mavericks. So I’d like to talk about The Bubble. What is the NBA’s Bubble?

[Bobby] So the NBA’s Bubble was a campus set up at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. We just went down there and took over a few hotels and used the— it’s the Wide World of Sports Complex. The MLS also played down there. And there’s just a ton of soccer fields and a few arenas. And the NBA just kind of took it over and sent 23 teams down there and all of their players, coaches, some team personnel. Basically, the teams were allotted like 35 spots in their travel party to go there. And once you went in, you didn’t come out until your season was over. And there was daily testing for COVID-19 and all of that stuff.

[Todd] And this was of course a response to the pandemic, that, “We want the NBA to continue. We want there to still be a season.” And the way to do this is to create a bubble, almost literally, of everybody going to one spot. And you had, it was like summer camp, you all had to stay, couldn’t leave until, essentially, your team was, I don’t want to say disqualified, but no longer eligible for playoffs, right?

[Bobby] Yeah, once you lost, you went home the next day. I mean there was no delaying. And it was, again, daily testing. I mean this was kind of considered like the most secure, arguably the safest, place in America, not just from a security standpoint but also from not catching coronavirus. The whole time the league was down there there were zero positive tests. So I mean it was an amazing feat scientifically. But also—

[Todd] Yeah, just like logistics.

[Bobby] Yeah, logistically speaking. I mean you get 600 people in there, plus countless onsite staff running the arena and the hotels and all that stuff. Not a single positive test. I mean it was amazing. It was amazing.

[Todd] Wow. So you’re the Digital Content Manager. How do you produce content inside The Bubble?

[Bobby] So it was kind of a unique challenge. Ordinarily, if the Mavericks go on a road trip we send up to four content people. So there’ll be one writer, there will be one person handling social media, there will be a photographer, there will be a videographer. We were allowed one spot for The Bubble and, obviously, one person couldn’t go and then come back and be replaced. I mean, we sent one guy to The Bubble for the entire time the team was there, which ended up being about two months. And he tried to do every job, which is tougher than it sounds. But we got a little bit of help.

[Todd] It sounds tough.

[Bobby] Yeah, but we got a little bit of help because we gave Tim Hardaway Jr., who is one of our players, we gave him a GoPro and basically just said, “Have at it. Record whatever you want.” And he took it around the entire campus.

[Todd] So the players became the content producers in a very deliberate and— Not in the sense of, “Oh, they can speak out. They can create their own kind of media empire. They could—” You were literally giving the players a camera and saying, “Make the content about yourself for your fans.”

[Bobby] Yeah, and they leaned all the way in. And not just because there’s kind of this generational shift I’ve noticed. I’ve been working in the NBA long enough now to kind of see it. Seven years ago, some of the older guys would have been like, “No way.” But now there’s a whole new wave, kind of a new generation of players who grew up online and so they’re all-in on it. So not only did they recognize the potential marketing and kind of fame benefits of doing this stuff, but also as just something fun to do to break up the monotony of being in the same place. These guys are going on the balcony, treating water bottles like they’re a DJ booth and making a dance video or getting in the pool and just acting insane. I mean it was just something to do to break up the monotony of being stuck in the same place for two months.

[Todd] Yeah. That’s so cool. Incredible. Okay. So I’d like to explore the future of NBA and sports content. When it comes to the NBA, any sports, this is a business, right? An NBA sports team is actually a company when you get down to it. And this company has revenue, and they have to have profitability goals and all of that. Where is the NBA’s money, the majority of it, coming from? And how do you see that revenue model changing?

[Bobby] A huge portion, I don’t know what the percentage is, but a huge portion of basketball-related income, which is, essentially, all the revenue for the entire year from all channels comes from cable deals. So that’s from ABC and ESPN, TNT, and then our local partners. I mean, it’s basically— These companies are paying billions of dollars annually for broadcasting rights, both for the regular season and for the playoffs. And it’s been huge. I mean, that’s been a huge reason why player salaries have spiked and why everybody’s making money, and everyone’s just having a great time. But young people just don’t buy cable. People my age, I’m 29 years old. I mean, we don’t buy— I don’t have a cable plan. I haven’t had cable since I moved out of my mom’s house. I mean, it’s just not something that we do. We don’t budget for it. It’s not something that’s important to us. And so Mark Cuban, who’s the owner of the Mavericks, and also he’s on Shark Tank, I mean, he’s just a business guy, he’s seen this coming for years. I mean, for five years, he’s been talking about how his kids and— I think his oldest daughter’s like 16, maybe. They don’t really watch TV. They watch people playing video games on YouTube and on Twitch. I mean, they care about esports. They don’t really care about regular sports. And that’s not something that’s unique to Mark Cuban’s kids. I mean, that’s the way that things are heading. And so the big question that we’ll have to answer sooner than later, probably, I don’t know, within the next five years or 10 years is, what happens whenever people don’t buy cable anymore? And not just like 10% of the population. What if it’s when it’s 50% of the population? And that’s kind of the big problem that we’re going to have to solve.

[Todd] Well, you mentioned that younger people tend to watch a lot of esports as opposed to more traditional—I hate to say it—but, like, athletic sports, I guess, is maybe the differentiation. How do you think younger fans might interact with the NBA or currently interact with the NBA minus television? Let’s take television out of the equation. How are younger fans currently doing it, and how might they in the future?

[Bobby] Well it’s great for us that NBA stars are very active on social as it is. I mean, Twitter is kind of like dying out just generally, I would say, with fans and with players, too. But they’re much more active on Instagram and even on TikTok now. It’s really taking off. And that’s good because you already have kind of a built-in younger audience who’s on those platforms that can kind of relate to and connect with the players, just gain a liking for them. When it comes to actually watching the games, which that matters, too, it’s not just about their marketing power. I mean, people got to tune in. I think the best solution would be how— I mean, how do people watch people play video games? They go to Twitch. They go to YouTube, where it’s free. I mean, you can go— And now you have to watch ads, so there’s still some revenue to be made there. But again, it’s all about lowering the threshold, the barrier of entry, right? Twitch is free. YouTube is free. These are platforms that everybody is already on, especially young people. So what would the logistics look like of broadcasting an entire NBA season on Twitch for free? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know what that would look like, but that I think is how you keep young eyeballs on the games. It’s not just that— We love when people love Luka Dončić, but you gotta watch him play 82 times a year, too. Otherwise, there’s going to be no Luka.

[Todd] That’s right.

[Bobby] So I think if we make it free and we make it fun and we allow interaction, and obviously, players can’t be taking questions while they’re playing a game—or could they? I guess maybe that’s something to explore. But just lower the barrier of entry. Right. People like free stuff. People like stuff that’s easy to find. Twitch is very easy to find. And make it fun and make it different. Change it up a little bit. TV broadcasts have been the same for 50 years. I mean for as long as there’s been TV, a broadcast has been the same—the same beats, the same presentation, and the same camera angles everything. Change it up. Try something new and see if it sticks. And I think that could be something that happens sooner than later but I definitely think that’s something that’s going to have to happen at some point in the future for the league to survive.

[Todd] Yeah, I mean that’s a way to get eyeballs, right? A lot of the things that you just mentioned here, changing the— Well, I guess the cinematography of the game, right, the way it’s watched. Maybe there’s some kind of a 360, stereoscopic video kind of option—whatever it is—that gets eyeballs on the game. But then there’s the question of, okay, how do you pay for it, right? And when you lose the cable TV deals, you’re losing a huge portion of revenue that the teams get. But—and I’m totally just theorizing here—I don’t know the business models well enough to speak authoritatively about this. But cable in a way is a middle person. Right? It’s this entity stuck between the advertiser and the viewer. And it’s the channel, and to be fair, it’s also the literal copper cable that delivers advertising to viewers. So if cable goes away, there is still a desire to advertise and there is still a desire to watch the game. So I wonder if advertising becomes much more direct. Like rather than going through cable in the form of 15- to 60-second or whatever it is television spots, it becomes pre-roll. Maybe there’s an interruption at certain intervals or maybe there’s just more ads that you see on the court. Right? Maybe they just kind of cut out the middle of cable.

[Bobby] Yeah. I mean you can— There will still be stoppages in a basketball game, whether or not it’s on TV. Teams still call time outs. Quarters still end. I mean there are still natural breaks where you can run ads. And so I guess the question is can you make enough money off of strictly just advertising on, for example, Twitch or YouTube or Netflix. I mean wherever you’re streaming a game. Hulu, I guess, is an option too. Can you still make enough money off of that to survive losses of cable deals? Because I mean just think about it if— I don’t know what the percentage is but let’s just say within 10 years less than half of Americans have a cable package. I mean are those broadcast partners, ABC and TNT, I mean are they going to fork over billions of dollars? I mean I just don’t know. And if you can reach a huge audience— I mean one thing that the NBA has proven over the last 20, 25 years, but especially within the last five, 10 years, the league is not afraid to take risks. Right? And to just try something and see if it works. And if your audience is not— You’ve got to go where the fans are. Right? If the fans are not on cable, if they’re just online, let’s go online. I mean if you’re going to let fans upload highlights in real-time and not pursue legal action against them then why not just make it free for everybody? I don’t know. I mean again, there’s a whole lot of zeroes involved with that and I’m not a money guy—

[Todd] There are!

[Bobby] —so I’m not in a position to speak about it, but I know that that’s something that Mark Cuban acknowledges, and I’m sure a lot of other team owners acknowledge and the NBA office definitely acknowledges, and so this isn’t just the future of basketball. This is the future of sports. This is the future of live television. I mean these are huge questions.

[Todd] Fascinating. Thank you, Bobby, so much for joining us today. I really truly appreciate it.

[Bobby] Thank you for having me on.

[Todd] So to everybody listening, I hope you learned as much as I did, and I can’t wait to see the content that you create next. So feel free to send it my way via email at future@fourkitchens.com. You can also reach out to me at @FoCpodcast on Twitter. To find out more about Four Kitchens and how we solve complex content problems—though we may not be able to solve the advertising cable television crisis—please visit fourkitchens.com. Finally, make sure to search for The Future of Content in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts or anywhere else podcasts are found. And please click subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. Until next time, keep creating content.