The “mobile view” option will debut this season as an option for League Pass video subscribers.
For its upcoming season, the National Basketball Association has installed a new video camera in each arena dedicated to producing tighter-in shots better suited for viewing on mobile devices.
The resulting “mobile view” will be an added option this year for subscribers to the NBA League Pass video service, in addition to the traditional home and away broadcast feeds.
It’s a recognition on the league’s part that a shift to mobile devices for video consumption entails more than just delivering the same old video on a different screen. What works great on a big-screen TV just doesn’t cut it on a smartphone.
“When you shrink it down to a mobile device, you can usually make out which team has the ball but it is sometimes hard to see which player,” NBA Senior VP Melissa Rosenthal Brenner told Recode.
The league tested out a zoomed-in approach for video highlights last year and found viewers preferred the mobile-optimized view by a wide margin.
Ensuring that mobile viewers don’t click away after a short time is of growing importance for the NBA, given that 70 percent of subscriber video views are coming from a mobile device.
One area that the league is not changing is the video quality level, though some mobile networks such as Sprint and T-Mobile automatically use lower-quality feeds for some users.
For the U.S., everything is offered as a high-quality stream, though the NBA is exploring lower-resolution video and downloads as options in markets like India, where high-speed connections remain rare.
As for the mobile view, the NBA — and broadcast partner Turner Sports — say they will be closely watching whether mobile view users spend more time than those watching the traditional broadcast feeds.
“Right now, most of our fans spend a longer amount of time (when they are watching) on a computer or desktop,” said Turner Sports Senior VP Mark Johnson.
In addition to the cost of installing an extra camera, Johnson said that the mobile view requires three extra production staff to each game’s broadcast.
The mobile view isn’t the only new trick the league has up its sleeve for the new season, which tips off on Tuesday. The NBA is also broadcasting one game per week in virtual reality, in partnership with NextVR. Those games will also require a League Pass subscription, in addition to the required VR-capable hardware.
Here’s a look at how the mobile view (top) compares to a traditional broadcast feed, as viewed on a smartphone.
And here’s a video of how the two compare: