Clippers unveil their vision of future game broadcasts

After the Clippers’ television deal with Bally Sports expired this summer, some fans on social media wondered why Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, whose engineering background has fueled a fortune unmatched by any other professional team owner in North America , not simply set up its own channel to broadcast the games.

Ballmer had thought about transforming the sports experience on television since his time at Microsoft, and has been testing new broadcast ideas since purchasing the Clipper in 2014. He and Second Spectrum, a Koreatown-based sports analysis company, introduced Clippers CourtVision, which added new modes to the regular cable subscription show in 2018, such as one showing the probability of a specific player’s shot at a specific location and another, the animations used to liven up dunks and big plays. One of his great desires is to show viewers exactly what a player sees on the pitch.

All along, Ballmer said he wanted to not only change the shape of an NBA broadcast, but how it was broadcast. When news of the team’s TV deal broke this summer, he saw an opportunity.

“I said now we’re going to stream,” Ballmer said. “We’re gonna do the damn thing.”

The Clippers are streaming now, and the thing has a name: ClipperVision, a streaming service customers can buy to watch Clippers games live without a cable subscription. The app offers six different live streams per game, ranging from traditional broadcast commentary, live commentary in Korean and Spanish, an augmented reality mode, and what’s called “BallerVision,” which features multiple guests like former NBA player Jamal Crawford, Baron Davis, Paul Pierce, Quentin Richardson and Matt Barnes casually react to the gameplay.

ClipperVision, which the team unveiled Monday, is essentially the fourth and final piece in its broadcast package this season. Eleven games will be broadcast over KTLA’s over-the-air signal, a decision the team made to maximize its viewership with a new audience. Bally Sports, the team’s longtime cable partner, will air 63 games. National networks claimed exclusive broadcasts for eight games. And starting with Saturday’s away game in Sacramento, 74 of the 82 games will also be broadcast live on ClipperVision.

“This is our channel,” Ballmer said. “Starting in 2022, would anyone really say, ‘Hey, I want to do a new cable channel’? no They’d say, ‘I want to do a new streaming service.’”

Ballmer said he could envision a future where a team could take all of their local broadcast rights and put them on their own streaming service, bypassing the need for a cable-based regional sports network partner, but that wasn’t an option this time because ClipperVision is so new and the team didn’t want to narrow their audience.

A screenshot of a ClipperVision broadcast in Spanish.

A screenshot of a ClipperVision broadcast in Spanish.

(Courtesy of the Clippers)

ClipperVision exists in part because the team hopes to capture what it sees as a growing audience — younger viewers who don’t have cable.

“We have some young guys who are wire cutters or wire riveters and they can’t be Clippers fans today; at least they can’t experience the Clippers,” Ballmer said. “I mean if they’re lucky they might go to a game a year but they can’t see our games. Honestly, when I speak to our players and talk about the streaming idea, they say, “Yeah, most of our friends don’t have cable. That’s going to work pretty well.’”

The service costs $199 for a season pass — monthly plans aren’t currently offered — though there’s a limit on who can buy it: only fans in the Los Angeles Viewer Zone, which stretches from Bakersfield to San Diego, Hawaii to Las Vegas extends. Clippers fans outside of that “geo-fence” would need to continue watching by purchasing League Pass, the NBA’s own streaming service. League Pass customers can access the Korean and Spanish live streams but not the ClipperVision augmented reality and BallerVision modes.

Unlike League Pass, which blacks out all local and national broadcasts for teams in a customer’s geographic area, ClipperVision allows fans within its Southern California TV footprint and beyond to watch Clippers games, said Gillian Zucker, the team’s president of business operations . That’s at the heart of a business model aimed at attracting younger generations who see a cable or satellite subscription as anachronistic.

The Korean-language feed features commentary from analysts calling the game live from Korea. Spanish-speaking analysts Francisco X. Rivera and Roger Valdivieso are based in Southern California. These feeds were chosen based on local demographics and potential for viewers overseas, according to Zucker.

To see how well it might actually work, on October 9, Ballmer settled into a plush armchair with an earbud in his right ear in a makeshift studio set up in a corner of a Los Angeles lot that Davis, the former UCLA and NBA, Stern belonged. A 15-minute drive away, at the Crypto.com Arena, the Clippers were preparing for a preseason game against Minnesota. Seated to Ballmer’s right were Davis, Pierce and Crawford for a test broadcast of the “BallerVision” feed.

Originally, “BallerVision” was only supposed to be available for selected games via the app.

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The Clippers are launching an app with a streaming service that features six interactive displays to watch game broadcasts on your mobile devices.

“Most people who start out are like, ‘Let’s just do a few things,'” Zucker said. “Steve said, ‘We can’t do a few games. We have to do every single game.’ It was totally obvious, but it completely changed the landscape of what we had to stand for.”

If the traditional studio booth feels like a highly produced stage show, with its play-by-play and analysis, the appeal of “BallerVision” – and other versions before it that have used the format on other networks, such as B. NBA TV’s “HooperVision” commentary on Peyton and Eli Manning’s back-and-forth brotherly soundtrack to “Monday Night Football” — its intimacy is an experience akin to eavesdropping on a conversation.

At times during the October 9 test broadcast, the studio on the Davis campus felt like a confessional. Ballmer rubbed his hands expectantly before the tip of the test broadcast. He yelled “Batum, baby!” after a play by the team’s 15-year-old veteran forward Nicolas. He said he wished Minnesota had played offseason star Rudy Gobert. He described growing up in Michigan and not knowing what basketball was until he was 11.

“It feels good,” Ballmer said of the franchise’s health, “but we didn’t win a championship. My wife likes to say something to me, I always spit out vinegar, whatever the expression, she says, ‘Many owners, most owners have never won a championship.’ And I said, ‘That’s not us.’

“The truth is we haven’t won one yet. We had good teams. The first team Jamal was on? That was a damn good team. We couldn’t get far. God, do you remember the Houston series?”

“3-1 up,” said Crawford.

A view of how basketball fans can watch a BallerVision broadcast with panelists commenting on the game.

A view of how basketball fans can watch a BallerVision broadcast with panelists commenting on the game.

(Courtesy of the Clippers)

“Oh my God!” said Davis.

“After beating the defending champion in the first round?” said Crawford. “That was the only opportunity for me that looked like it — that was the one.”

“I’m going to tell you this about the Clippers,” said Pierce, a native of Inglewood and a 2008 NBA champion with Boston. “As a Southern California guy, I’ve watched the Clippers my entire life. Ever since Steve joined the Clippers, they’ve actually been trying to win a championship. Actually tried. I don’t think they’ve tried before.”

Ballmer is unsure if he would return for an actual BallerVision show. He prefers to watch games live from the front row. At one point during the test broadcast, Davis looked at Ballmer at three chairs to his left.

“I just want to sit next to you at a game,” Davis said.

“You already are!” Ballmer said.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/clippers/story/2022-10-17/clippers-unveil-their-vision-of-future-game-broadcasts-ballervision Clippers unveil their vision of future game broadcasts

Emma Bowman

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