Crackle Announces New Original Basketball Doc ‘Anything is Possible — The Serge Ibaka Story’

Ad-supported COD service Crackle Plus, in partnership with Screen Media July 22 announced the U.S. premiere of original NBA basketball documentary feature, Anything is Possible – The Serge Ibaka Story, launching on Saturday, Aug. 1.

Making its world debut at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, this feature-length documentary was produced by Vinay Virmani at Uninterrupted Canada, along with Jordi Vilà and Serge Ibaka’s Ouenzé Entertainment. The doc follows the Toronto Raptors’ power forward as he makes an emotional journey back to the Republic of Congo with the Larry O’Brien trophy following the team’s 2019 NBA Championship.

Ibaka takes viewers through the streets he grew up on after he lost his mother and his father was imprisoned for political reasons. He talks basketball with the President of the Republic of Congo, returns to a restaurant where he once begged for food, and visits with his old coach and the basketball club where he fell in love with the game.

“I wanted to tell my story in a unique and different way,” Ibaka said in a statement. “I will never forget where I come from, and my journey to becoming an NBA Champion has been hard to believe. I think everyone can enjoy this film, but I will be especially proud if I can inspire at least one kid, in Congo or anywhere in the world, to give their all to reach for their dreams.”

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“This stirring documentary will not just entertain our sports-hungry viewers, it will inspire viewers to witness how Serge overcame so many obstacles to achieve his dreams,” said Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus.

The doc joins Crackle’s line-up of original content, including “Road to Race Day,” “On Point.” “Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters,” “The Clearing,” “Crown Vic,” “’85: The Greatest Team in Football History,” “Wonders of the Sea,” “Yelawolf: A Slumerican Life,” and “Going From Broke,” recently picked up for a second season.

Crackle is available in the U.S. and can be accessed on 25 devices and services including Amazon FireTV, RokuTV, Apple TV, Smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Vizio), gaming consoles (PS4 and XBoxOne), Plex, iOS and Android mobile devices and on desktops at Crackle.com. The service is also available in about 500,000 hotel rooms in the Marriott Bonvoy chain.

NBA Launching New Streaming Service With Microsoft

The National Basketball Association may be sidelined due to the coronavirus, but the league officials have been busy readying a new branded streaming service when play resumes.

The league April 16 announced a multiyear deal with Microsoft that includes development of a new direct-to-consumer streaming video service on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

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The service, which will be co-managed by the NBA and WarnerMedia Entertainment’s Turner Sports, will incorporate “machine learning” and artificial intelligence to offer consumers personalized game streaming and TV broadcasts.

Machine learning is the study of computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience. It is seen as a subset of artificial intelligence.

Turner, along with ESPN, has a $24 billion, 10-year broadcast deal with the NBA that goes through the 2024-25 season.

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“By creating a new platform that brings together all the things that make up being an NBA fan — whether that’s watching games, buying a ticket, participating in fantasy or buying merchandise, we can use that platform to re-imagine and diversify what it means to be an NBA fan,” Chris Benyarko, EVP of direct-to-consumer for the NBA, said in a statement.

The NBA currently offers standalone streaming access to out-of-market games through its League Pass SVOD service. The new service with Microsoft would enhance League Pass’ camera angles; multiple game audio options, including a social media influencer calling the game or listening to the game in a different language; and interactive trivia and questions during game telecasts.

“Imagine all of those features now being on a platform that’s able to use deep ‘machine learning’ AI capabilities to serve those up to a user; so instead of the fan having to pick and choose and turn them on or off one by one, the platform is now starting to behave like a game producer, automatically selecting and presenting the game in a different way,” Benyarko said.

The Azure platform aims to create a more personalized fan experience that tailors the content to the preferences of the fan, rewards participation, and provides more insights and analysis.

“The AI eventually learns that I like to learn about stats, so it’s going to start presenting me more information about stats as I go into the game,” said Deb Cupp, VP of enterprise and commercial industries at Microsoft. “It’s this experience where instead of just watching a game, it actually has the opportunity to interact in a way that matters to me as that fan; it’s enriching the experience and frankly just makes it more valuable to me.”

The platform will enable users to set up an account and enter preferences — favorite team, favorite players, statistics, history, trivia and gaming — the software can then customize to that user.

The platform claims to allow users to catch up on games and personalized information they most care about.

“To me, that is what describes the fan engagement,” Cupp said. “It allows me to interact the way I want to interact, at the time I want to interact.”

While the 2020-21 season remains on hiatus due to the coronavirus, the NBA’s collaboration with Microsoft will expand next year with the software behemoth becoming the Official Artificial Intelligence Partner and an Official Cloud and Laptop Partner for the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, and USA Basketball.

“Together, we’ll bring fans closer to the game and players they love with new personalized experiences powered by Microsoft Azure,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.

Roku: Idle TV Sports Viewers Streaming More Movies, TV Shows

With professional (or any) sports on television an early victim of the coronavirus pandemic, new data from Roku suggests linear TV viewers suddenly denied access to sports of any kind have embraced streaming TV shows and movies more aggressively than other Roku subscribers.

March 2020 Week 1 vs. March 2020 Week 3

NBA and NHL linear TV viewers increased their non-sports streaming on Roku among the following genres, respectively:
News: 92.15%, 119.83%
Film & TV: 74.92%, 67.56%
Lifestyle: 66.74%, 51.92%
Live TV: 52.88%, 60.12%
Music: 42.99%, 63.53%
Reality: 41.11%, 30.29%
Kids: 33.48%, 31.29%
International: 23.42%, 34.25%
Comedy: 15.04%, 19.66%
Sports: -49.99%, -71.42%

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“Roku users who watched the NHL or NBA on linear TV in February increased streaming hours on the Roku platform faster than the average Roku user,” Dan Robbins VP, ad marketing & partner solutions, wrote in an April 2 blog.

Robbins said that while overall linear TV usage among sports viewers is flat, they are watching more film, lifestyle, music and news on the Roku platform.

Roku had more than 30 million active accounts in the most-recent fiscal period. It added 1.4 million net accounts in the quarter. Viewers streamed 500 million more hours in Q2 than in the previous-year period, or 9.4 billion hours total.

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Robbins said Roku users who watched the 2019 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament (“March Madness”) on linear TV also streamed more video this March.

“Over the last three weeks, these fans shifted their prime time viewing to entertainment channels in the film & TV genre,” he wrote.

WarnerMedia’s Sports Social Media Star to Debut at Rival ESPN

When it comes to sports video clips on social media, Pakistan/American national Omar Raja’s “House of Highlights” on WarnerMedia’s Bleacher Report (B/R) is a huge hit with more than 15 million followers on Instagram.

In 2019, “House of Highlights” became the only U.S. sports media brand to surpass ESPN in followers across all social media platforms. That apparently didn’t sit well with the Disney-owned sports brand. Now the 25-year-old Raja is taking his skills to ESPN for bigger money.

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Raja founded “House of Highlights” in 2014 while a student at University of Central Florida as a way to share video clips of moments both on and off the court with friends.

The Instagram account quickly gained a following and, in just five years, has built a community of both a younger audience of sports fans and superstar athletes and celebrities like LeBron James and Drake.

“Omar’s distinct, edgy and authentic voice resonates perfectly with those we reach across digital platforms, and we’re excited to have him play a key role in creating fun content and strengthening our connection with fans across our entire digital footprint,” Ryan Spoon, SVP of digital and social content, said in a statement. “With the resources and the reach and scale of ESPN behind them, Omar and his team will be adding fuel to the fire.”

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Raja will spearhead ESPN’s “SportsCenter” Instagram account and will play a key role in content offerings on the channel’s sports app.

He will also be a contributor to ESPN’s NBA digital and social content, including a new “Hoop Streams” live show with co-hosts Chiney Ogwumike and Christine Williamson. The weekly studio show premieres on Jan. 15 from 6:30 to 7 p.m. ET and will focus on culture and viral moments across basketball.

It will be the first show produced from ESPN’s new Studio E in Bristol, Conn. dedicated exclusively to its growing digital content and shows. The show will be available to stream live on Twitter, YouTube and the ESPN App.

Raja’s first appearance on ESPN platforms will be as a guest on “Countdown to the CFP Championship” Jan. 13, ahead of the College Football Playoff National Championship game between Clemson and LSU.

NBA, TikTok Partner for Video Contest in India

India, with the world’s sixth-largest economy and youngest global population by 2020, is a coveted streaming video market for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney and now the NBA.

The National Basketball Association has partnered with user-generated short-form mobile video sharing platform TikTok for a campaign around the ongoing 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors.

The social media venture – dubbed #DuetWithNBA – enables TikTok users to create and share video duets with content offered on the NBA India app.

The top-three winners who post and share content on the platform will be featured on a post-game presentation of the NBA Finals. Other participants will selected to receive NBA Fanwear.

The campaign follows last December’s partnership between the NBA and ByteDance, TikTok’s corporate parent.

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“We are always looking at partnerships that allow our fans to engage with the league across various content platforms,” Diane Gotua, VP, global business operations at the NBA, said in a statement.

Mayank Gandotra, director of business development at TikTok India, said the platform is ideal for users seeking to watch and interest with sports video.

“We are excited to bring to our active sports community pan-India exclusive content and engaging in-app challenges,” Gandotra said.

The TikTok app is available in more than 150 markets and 75 languages globally.

 

Yahoo Sports Bowing NBA-Themed Studio Streaming Show

The National Basketball Association, Turner Sports and Yahoo Sports are set to debut a live nightly studio show, “The Bounce,” available on Yahoo Sports and the Yahoo Sports app on iOS and Android beginning Jan. 21, with a special 5-8 p.m. ET launch.

The show will air five nights per week — Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday — from 8-11 p.m. ET through the end of the 2018-19 NBA regular season.

This mobile-specific show is part of a multiyear deal and claims to be the first of its kind, offering the league through analysis from a roster of hosts along with in-progress highlights, a live scoreboard, social media integrations, and behind-the-scenes footage.

“The Bounce” will be co-produced by Turner Sports and Yahoo Sports from the Turner Studios in Atlanta, featuring rotating analysts Gary Payton, Swin Cash and Jason Terry, as well as Turner commentators Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, Allie LaForce and Stephanie Ready as studio hosts.

Geoff Reiss, GM of Yahoo Sports, said the show expands upon Verizon’s partnership with the NBA.

“The Bounce … will give fans a new way to stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the NBA, while providing them with access to NBA League Pass [SVOD service] all in one place.”

NBA League Pass has been available on Yahoo since last season. Yahoo Sports is also the official fantasy game for NBA.com.

“The Bounce builds on Yahoo Sports’ comprehensive NBA programming that already includes editorial coverage, traditional highlights and the league’s official Fantasy Game,” said David Denenberg, SVP of global media distribution and business affairs, NBA.

In addition to the premiere of series, the NBA’s MLK Jr. Day programming will feature a slate of five nationally televised games across TNT and NBA TV.

“We’re looking forward to producing this innovative form of content for NBA fans as a supplement to the in-depth coverage available on NBA TV and across the NBA Digital portfolio,” said Scooter Vertino, SVP of production, programming and content, NBA Digital.

 

 

Twitter to Live-Stream 20 NBA Games From Player POV

The National Basketball Association, Turner Sports and Twitter Jan. 9 announced a live-streaming deal that affords hardwood aficionados in the United States access to 20 “NBA on TNT” games this season.

In a first, during the second halves of those games, users will be able to watch the action through a single-player, isolated camera view. Underscoring the interactive element of the deal, users vote on Twitter for the player they want to see featured during the live stream of select regular-season and playoff games airing on TNT as well as the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.

“The NBA Twitter community is among the most vibrant in sports and entertainment,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “While watching NBA games on TNT, our fans on Twitter can now enjoy a unique second screen experience that will further enhance the way fans engage with each other and the game.”

The live-streams will debut during TNT’s presentation of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 17, with an ISO-CAM of a fan-voted player. The schedule of regular-season and playoff live streams will be announced at a later date, along with exclusive commentators who will provide analysis for this second screen offering.

“This complementary live stream on Twitter — from the distinct vantage point of the fan-voted, most coveted player on a given night – will provide an additive experience for fans to go along with the fully-produced coverage on TNT,” said Turner president David Levy.

As part of the expanded relationship, the NBA — through its NBA Digital partnership with Turner — will continue to provide on-demand content from the @NBA Twitter handle, including video of pre-game warmups, in-game and post-game highlights, and behind-the-scenes content.

Since the NBA joined Twitter in 2009, the league has built the largest Twitter community of any sports league in the world with 27.5 million followers.

CES 2019: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to Discuss Expanded Partnership

For better or worse, Twitter engages people through social media.

Take the Christmas Day NBA matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers, which was infamously hyped on Twitter after the Warriors featured an illustration of forward Draymond Green attempting to spread holiday cheer.

Twitter followers thought the image made Green look fat. And the snarking followed.

“Did KD draw this?” tweeted one follower in reference to the Warriors’ forward Kevin Durant.

While public putdowns on Twitter are nothing new, the NBA and Twitter hope the platform can enhance the consumer experience – in addition to their bottom lines.

The Consumer Technology Association Dec. 27 announced that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver are scheduled to have a conversation with ESPN anchor Rachel Nichols at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 8-11, 2019in Las Vegas.

The session, “#NBATwitter: A Conversation with Adam Silver and Jack Dorsey,” will discuss the NBA’s approach to sports technology with a spotlight on #NBATwitter.

Moderated by Nichols, Dorsey and Silver will speak from the CES Sports Zone Stage at 1:30 PM, on Jan. 9 at ARIA, Level 3, Primrose Ballroom 2-3.

“The partnership between Twitter and the NBA illustrates the ever-growing symbiotic relationship between sports and technology,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA, said in a statement.

CES 2018 saw every sports league represented, including Major League Soccer, MLB, NASCAR, NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, U.S. Olympic Committee and WWE. Professional athletes, such as Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Joe Montana, Landon Donovan, Bryce Harper and Michael Phelps made appearances and contributed to the narrative surrounding sports technology innovation.

CES 2019 will be no different.

Returning to the annual confab for 2019, the CES Sports Zone will feature the latest tech innovation impacting all facets of sports – from athletic performance to fan engagement and the business of sports on and off the field.

In addition to exhibits, the Sports Zone conference program will feature athletes and industry experts as they explore the future of sports technology, including the quantified athlete, immersive fan experience, smart venues and eSports. Another aspect is the CES Sports Zone Lounge hosted by Sports Innovation Lab and sponsored by the NFL Players Association.

CES attendees will be able to experience eSports firsthand via The Gamespot eSports truck located in the CES Sports Zone of Tech West (#45822). Featuring 10 gaming kiosks for both professional gamers and attendees to showcase their skills in Mario Kart and the newly released Super Smash Brothers, the truck will host a series of competitions and invite all to take part in periods of open play.

Some 4,500 exhibitors will unveil technology across every major industry at CES 2019, across a show floor spanning 2.75 million net square feet.

Warriors’ Stephen Curry’s soft shot in losing effort against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day.

Sky Bowing OTT Video Service Featuring NBA, NFL Games — Including Super Bowl LIII

Comcast-owned Sky in January is launching an over-the-top video service in the United Kingdom showcasing 40 games from the NBA and NFL – including Super Bowl LIII, Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Dubbed Sky Sports USA, the service will be offered from Jan. 3 through Feb. 5 as part of Sky’s £18 monthly Sky Sports subscription, or from £7.99 daily via the broadband-specific Now TV Sports pass.

Sky Sports USA will feature every NFL game through the playoffs. On the hardwood, U.K. subs can stream NBA’s annual London game, featuring the Washington Wizards against the New York Knicks on Jan. 17. On Jan. 21, the league marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day with three games, headlined by the Memphis Grizzlies.

“Every year, the NFL and NBA London games sell out in a matter of minutes and every year the following for both sports in the U.K. gets bigger,” Barney Francis, managing director, Sky Sports, said in a statement.

“It’s a perfect time to launch a pop-up channel to make sure our customers get the very best of American sports.”

 

 

Verizon Looking to Bundle Third-Party OTT Video with 5G Rollout

Still smarting from its $1 billion write-down of the short-lived Go90 video app, including forays into original content production (“The Runner” reality TV series), Verizon is embracing high-band 5G spectrum, which claims to offer wireless network speeds 100 times faster than the current 4G spectrum.

But rather than create and market an online TV platform featuring third-party content pay-TV channels, Verizon will help market third-party over-the-top video services – similar to what Amazon Channels does.

Last month, Verizon launched 5G network coverage in Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento, Calif. Rollout included the choice of a free Apple TV with 4K functionality or Google Chromecast device, and 90-days access to online TV platform YouTube TV.

“You should expect to see us continue to look for ways to be disruptive to the distribution model,” CFO Matthew Ellis told attendees Nov. 14 at the Morgan Stanley European Technology, Media & Telecom confab in Barcelona.

In terms of overall content, Ellis said Verizon would focus internally on the newly restructured Verizon Media Group subsidiary (formerly Oath), which features three units targeting consumers, business and media, respectively.

The latter, headed by current Oath CEO Guru Gowrappan (who replaced departing Tim Armstrong),is fixated on news, sports, entertainment and finance via Verizon subsidiaries such as Yahoo!, AOL, HuffPost, TechCrunch, Engadget, and Tumblr.

Verizon earlier this year partnered with the NBA for video content streamed, including live games, original programming, fantasy leagues and interactive experiences on Yahoo! Sports and other platforms.

The deal mirrored an earlier agreement with the NFL to stream in-market and national games, including national pre-season, regular season, playoff games, and the Super Bowl nationwide – regardless of mobile network.

“You’ll see us continue to do some things in content, but it’s going to be focused on those super channels within the [Verizon Media Group] platform as opposed to the kind of more traditional video [movies, TV shows] content,” said Ellis.