All change: British Basketball League Playoff Finals go remote with in-house production team

Credit: British Basketball League

The British Basketball League Playoff Finals returned to the O2 Arena on Sunday (19 May), and while the venue may have been familiar, it’s been all change behind the scenes in recent months.

Following last year’s Playoffs, Jose Garnes, chief content office at the British Basketball League, told SVG Europe of his grand plans to bring production of the league in house and move to a remote production model. Twelve months on, those plans have been fully realised, with Sunday being the 226th game delivered by that in-house team.

Speaking ahead of the Playoff Finals, Garnes explained that while a fully remote production is now the norm for BBL, in recognition of the importance of this event, more of the team will be on site than during a normal league game.

“All of our games apart from the tentpoles have been done remotely,” he explains. “The people that we send to the arenas are our reporter on the games that go on Sky and the camera crew, which is provided by Timeline, our facilities provider.

“The O2 is an enhanced coverage to the traditional broadcast that we would do on linear TV. So we have up to 16 cameras covering every element of the game, we have two super-slow mo cameras to help us with analysis but also to showcase the occasion and the venue that we’re playing. We have an on-site pres too. Whereas normally during the regular season, all of our presentation is remote from our studios, on this one we actually go into the O2 Arena. And then we have a different set of guests depending on whether we’re covering the women’s game, or the men’s game. That way on these tentpoles we can feature the Women’s League and bring them up to the same level of production as the Men’s League.”

London Lions were crowned champions at the O2 Credit: British Basketball League

To enable effective remote production, fibre was installed in all of the league’s arenas before the start of this season.

“We own that connection,” adds Garnes. “All of those connections and data feeds come into Timeline and from that we produce the games remotely. At Timeline in Ealing we have the ability to do two concurrent broadcasts and we can do up to three games per day. That allows us to create volume, while also optimising the cost.

“In the past all of the games that were broadcast had completely different production levels and resources, and the commentators and production team used to go to every arena. If we tried to follow that same model, our costs would be very high and our production values would change a lot because there would be a disconnect among teams travelling up and down the country. So now we can keep everything in one location, and I’d say it’s delivering that consistency of quality as well. One of the equations that often doesn’t work is volume plus quality – you normally compromise on one of them. What we have done is hopefully crack the code and be able to create quantity and quality by doing it remotely.”

Throughout the season, one game a week has been broadcast live on Sky. In addition, the matches have been picked up by the US, with NBC, Yes Network, Bally, NSN and Fubo all showing live games, including the Finals. Social media is also playing a pivotal role in building awareness of the sport.

“On Twitch, we’re going to do a preview show ahead of the final. We have two young basketball fans, one is an influencer and the other works within the scene,” he adds. “They’ll be talking to a younger set of fans about what is coming up and then driving the viewership to tune in on Sky Sports or YouTube. For us, it has been important that we don’t just stay within the channels that people know they can watch, we are looking to expand and bring them on board with content that makes sense on those platforms and that is not just a replica of what we put on Sky. Even if they’re not aware of the league they can get interested by having people that talk like them and discuss topics that they are interested in.”

Garnes is quick to praise the 16-strong production team that has delivered all 226 games this season, and highlights the agility a dedicated team brings.

We basically built a production company in the summer to take control of anything and everything that we needed as a league. So if we see an opportunity to do something, we can move our resources to go and tackle that.

“A good example of that is our US broadcast distribution. We create our main feed that goes to Sky, but then the US broadcasters all need slightly different specs and we were able to absorb that, and restructure the weekly schedule of our team to cater for them with very little cost to us.

“I’m very proud of the team that we have. Even when we fail, because we have failed in some things, we have been able to learn from that and then go and execute again. I think that has created a quite healthy environment within the team, and we can see the results. When there’s a big risk of failure, innovation gets capped very quickly. For us, we have a blank page where we say ‘What do we want to do, we can go and do it’, there’s no good or bad. That allows us to be quite innovative and allows people to feel that they make an impact within the league.”

BBL’s Jose Garnes is speaking at Create Share Engage 2024, sponsored by Appear, a one-day event for sports federations, leagues, associations, clubs and other rights owners, as well as broadcasters, agencies and producers, on Thursday 23 May.
For more information and to register click here

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