The Definitive Bubbleball Book and The Future of the NBA’s Revenue with Ben Golliver [Transcript] by@David

The Definitive Bubbleball Book and The Future of the NBA’s Revenue with Ben Golliver [Transcript]

David Smooke HackerNoon profile picture

David Smooke

Founder & CEO of HackerNoon. Grew up on the east coast. Grew old on the west coast. Now, cooking in Colorado.

Listen to this podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get our podcasts. Learn more about his new book, Bubbleball: Inside the NBA's Fight to Save a Season 

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The Washington Post's Ben Golliver joins me to discuss the process of writing his new book, "Bubbleball: Inside the NBA's Fight to Save a Season," and the pandemic's impact on the NBA's revenue. With no/few fans in the stands and the decline in the number of games from the pandemic, the National Basketball Association is expected to loss about $4 billion dollars in 2021. In addition to discussing his bubble writing and publishing process, we talk about the NBA's options to stimulate revenue, such as expansion fees for new franchises and how to make substantial investments into the NBA's digital experience. 

Transcript (machine generated, pardon the errors)

David Smooke: Hello, and welcome to the Hacker Noon podcast. Guest host, David Smooke today, and I'm with Ben Golliver of the Washington Post and NBA podcaster / NBA writer. And he has a new book coming out about the NBA bubble experience. Today, we're going to talk about what it's like to write a book and how the business of the NBA is doing.

[00:00:30] How are you today, Ben? 

[00:00:32] Ben Golliver: I'm doing great. Well, it's great to be back a triumphant return, so I must not have blown into it the first time around, huh? 

[00:00:38] David Smooke:Yeah. Yeah. Good enough to come back. I mean, you have those press credentials too. 

[00:00:45] Ben Golliver: Well, glad to be here.  I appreciate you letting me talk about the book.

[00:00:48] David Smooke: Cool. So , what's it called?

[00:00:50] Ben Golliver: It is called "Bubbleball" and it's basically  a first person slash new Z ride along type journey through my visit to the NBAs bubble for 93 days and 92 nights last summer.  I'd never written a book before I did go down there intending to write a book, but you know, one of my big goals once the pandemic first hit in March was to sort of.

[00:01:11] You know, use it as an opportunity for self-improvement and, you know, for some, for the first couple of months, that was about like exercise and trying to get good habits and routines and sleeping better, that kind of thing. But when the opportunity to write a book came along, it was like, look, this has always been a bucket list.

[00:01:25] I think every writer at some point things high just need to have a good idea. And that's what I'll do when  you know, write my first book and. It felt like the idea fell in my lap with  the NBA bubble at Disney world. I was there the entire time, got an up close and personal view of the Lakers title and just a whole bunch of superstar level guys who we would never see in such an intimate and small environment as the bubble.

[00:01:47] And so I basically came back home after the bubble here to Los Angeles and lived in a one man writing bubble for the next three months. And just try to crank out the book as quickly as I can.  It'll be out in may and I'm really excited about it. 

[00:01:59] David Smooke: Cool. I got a [00:02:00] pre-order.  So when you say the opportunity came along, cause you know, like all writers kind of have a lot of book ideas or half finished books kind of sitting in their, sitting on their hard drives or, you know, wherever. So  what made you commit to the idea? 

[00:02:13] Well, it's so funny. I mean, it's, it's over and over in my writing career, I just sort of wandering through life randomly and an opportunity comes along kind of just falls in my lap and it's like, Oh yeah, that makes total sense. And I just feel sometimes like, I'm sort of charmed in a way.

[00:02:26] But on this one, I was writing diaries for the Washington post, you know, what it was like to live in the bubble. And one of my first diaries included some pretty viral videos of me. Exercising in the bubble. Like we were confined to our room for a quarantine for a full week. We couldn't leave for any reason other than to take a step out of our front door and get tested once a day.

[00:02:46] Otherwise we had to eat all of our meals  prepackaged in a room and we were basically confined to that room. So I was like doing exercise routines, walking back and forth, pacing for hours on end, trying not to go crazy. Yeah, it took some videos of that.  It got a lot of attention just from [00:03:00] people , really rubberneckers looking at me and just like, what a pathetic person, what a weird word, this guy's living at down there and Disney world.

[00:03:07] And so I wrote , a couple of diary entries. Just what is, what is this Disney world experience like the first impressions? What was it like to go through an extended quarantine period? I think it. you know, in some ways the, those diaries struck a nerve with people because everyone's going through this period of isolation kind of together  around the world, doing the zoom meeting stuff, getting used to not being able to go out to restaurants and all those things.

[00:03:29] And this was back in. No July when we were four months in, and with no end in sight. And also I think, you know, people were starting to adapt at that point. So,  I just got an email basically from an agent saying, Hey, I think this could be a book. I liked your, your diary entry. What do you think? And I said, all right, well, let's try to put something together.

[00:03:47] I whipped up a proposal pretty quickly and I was lucky to get a  agreement with Abrams books out of New York city. And , I really respected their support of the project. They totally got where I was coming from. And what kind of a story this book could be, you know, [00:04:00] it's, it's half basketball, right.

[00:04:01] In terms of who's going to go with the title, but the other half is more, just a personal experience of going through  the craziest year any of us have ever lived through. And then also the health challenges the league had to stare down and just the weirdness of Disney world, like personally, the, the funniest part about it is I have no kids.

[00:04:17] I don't like Disney movies. I've never liked cartoons of any kind. And so being sent to Disney world for three months, I don't like amusement parks. I don't like long lines or any of that stuff. So being sent to Disney world in some ways, it was almost like my worst nightmare is it's kind of funny to be dropped there and need to adjust on the fly.

[00:04:33] So that's how it kind of came together.  I decided about two or three weeks into the experience that I was going to be writing the book. And so I was able to kind of know that, you know, going through the rest of my reporting and in terms of. What I wanted to make sure I was there for, and  what kind of angles I wanted to hit.

[00:04:48] And as it turned out, I was one of the very few writers to be there for like the Milwaukee bucks shut down on when they protested, didn't take the court and, they stopped the whole bubble for three days. I was one of the first people on the site for that. And [00:05:00] the book tries to give a detailed account of that as well.

[00:05:02] As of course, you know, the champagne celebrations when, LeBron, James is spraying champagne over all the media and that kind of stuff, too. 

[00:05:09] David Smooke: Yeah, I texted you whenever, the box incident happened and the protest. And I was wondering, is that going to be, what is page one of the book? Where do you start?

[00:05:19] Ben Golliver: Which one of the book will be me stepping into the bubble for the first time, after a week in isolation and just being like, wow, this feels like a foreign planet. Right. And just trying to put all the pieces together of, okay. I'm in Florida. I have to wear a mask. I'm wearing a sensor device that beeps, if I get too close to anyone, it's sorta like a half dog callers have smoke detector.

[00:05:42] Right.  I've got a magic band on my wrist.  The Disney hotel key, which is tracking my movements all across the bubble. There are security guards preventing me from going just about everywhere. So I'm kind of confined to this pen where you can walk the entire perimeter of it in 15 minutes. And it's just, you know, [00:06:00] weird, everything about it is weird.

[00:06:02] So that's, that's sort of the first chapter is the acclimation. And then I just try to tell the story chronologically. So I go all the way back to when the NBA shut down in March and I go through the discussions of how the bubble came together, what the players were worried about, how they structured it.

[00:06:15] And then I just get into the basketball. And then of course  the playoffs are going to be the highlight of the story. So you've got. The Milwaukee bucks shut down, which is probably the pivot point of the entire experience. I look at that as sort of the halftime break of the bubble and then the run to the title as well.

[00:06:31] And I think people should keep in mind. When we first got there, there was 22 teams, basically 300, almost 400 players there. By the end of it in September, we were down to basically two teams for the finals. But for the last month we were down to four teams. So not only were we in Disney world, but we were in like the, the, the ghost town version of the bubble in which, you know, basically there was only 10% of the original people there.

[00:06:57] You could walk around the entire campus and, and [00:07:00] barely see anyone. And  it's just these endless Groundhog days where the seasons are starting to turn and the weather is changing and the animals are almost coming back out from some of the nearby swamps. You're getting all this weird wildlife stuff happening on the, on the grounds, because there's just absolutely no one there.

[00:07:16] And they had sealed off the entire area for the NBA. So I try to mix in a lot of color like that to paint the picture. What I'm really hoping this book is, you know, for the NBA fan 20 years from now who is not young enough yet to kind of remember the bubble when it happened. I want this to kind of be the definitive account of like, wow, that was a super weird chapter in NBA history.

[00:07:36] And if I want to know everything about it, this book will have it. Yeah. I 

[00:07:40] David Smooke: [00:07:40] mean, you're the bubble boy, you lived it, you were down there. There's a chance. It could go. When people say bubble boy, they don't think of the Seinfeld episode.  If the book really starts to grow, I mean, you see Biden  talking about like 400,000 people dead more than like all of world war II from this pandemic.

[00:07:57] And so when people go back and they look [00:08:00] at how did sports function during  such. Turbulent times, you are going to be a source. That's going to age for a very long time. So I'm,  looking forward to reading it. I'm also curious, you kind of have this balance between basketball and the life.

[00:08:12] That we're all, I mean, it's kind of sounds like a prison, you know? I mean, it's obviously not like the luxury and all that, but you're locked in. You can have your family there a lot of the time. And I like, see on Twitter, like everyone is fishing and catching the same fish and it like, like this bizarre, like.

[00:08:28] World where you just like, get locked into doing the same things. And then you kind of saw it on the court of like the Miami heat with this military stick approach, you know, we're so efficient and that they weren't bothered by like this regiment. And then you see teams like the Clippers, really having issues and having people coming back short, not ready and chemistry.

[00:08:49] And it just seems like,  More than ever like all the conditions surrounding the game were equal and shitty. So like it kind of a, it was a real, it looked like a real mental health challenge that it [00:09:00] did. It kind of go back and forth with your own , mental health of like being able to empathize more with these players.

[00:09:06] Cause you were, you were living through the same 

[00:09:08] Ben Golliver: lockdown. Well, a hundred percent, first of all, they had a way harder than we did because they have to perform in high stress environments in front of millions of people and have their performance judge should be separated from their families. And I guess.

[00:09:19] To a certain degree, I have to perform on my own little level of doing podcasts and writing stories and everything else, but I need to stress levels, not comparable at all. And so I really did empathize with them. It was exactly as hard as they described. And I do try to tease out some of those themes that you're describing.

[00:09:33] Why did certain teams succeed in the bubble? Why were they able to adapt and what kind of personality traits and,  philosophical approaches work in the bubble compared to, you know, teams that may be fell short of expectations. Why did they fall short? And,  there was a number of teams that Clippers the Sixers, the bucks who I Al I felt like all three of those teams should have done better than they did.

[00:09:53] And then you had some surprising teams like Denver and Miami on the flip side,  surpassing expectations and really finding a nice group [00:10:00] there. So I dive into that stuff as well. The one thing I do want to point out, you know, The experience gave me a new perspective on this idea of confinement and jail.

[00:10:09]This was not prison and I'm always pretty careful to say that I know a number of players wanted to draw that comparison. And there was a lot of joking. We stayed at the chorus, natto Springs resort, and a lot of people were like, well, it's the Coronado Springs, white collar penitentiary, right?

[00:10:22] Like that, that's what people would kind of call it. And I do want to just remind everyone we could leave at any time. Now we just couldn't come back. But if we just got overwhelmed completely. There was always that estate patch. And there was some times that got really tough, you know, a few writers had to leave for, for deaths in the family.

[00:10:37]At one point my parents were dealing with some really serious wildfires,  nearby in Oregon that really had me scared and nervous on their behalf and just kind of wishing I could be there to comfort them.  I felt fortunate that I was able to kind of make it through the entire experience in one piece and I didn't have to leave for some reason, but it also just gave me a different level of empathy for people who are confined.

[00:10:57] Going through difficult circumstances in their family where they [00:11:00] don't get to leave for any reason. Right. And so to me, that was one kind of takeaway I had where I just did. I want to draw that line there. I mean, this wasn't prison, and it was pretty sunny. Most of the time I got to see some incredible basketball.

[00:11:12] I've definitely lived in nicer hotels before I'll say that. And it was very intense. It was hard, but it wasn't prison.

[00:11:19] David Smooke: I mean courtside seats every day. Like that would be pretty cool. I was hoping whenever this happened,  they would get more aggressive about like how camera angles, like hearing the huddle is something that I would really love and not like the.

[00:11:32] The whole take of like, they record the whole player for the whole game and they pull out two sound bites, but like really hearing what the coach is telling them before  key plays. I was hoping for that. And I was kinda also hoping they would bring out Disney mascots and like, see Mickey mouse, like running on the floor.

[00:11:49] I don't know, there's a couple of fun ways they could've went. And I mean, the implications of all this, like the there's looming,  labor negotiations between the players and the owners, [00:12:00] they had to get to kind of this minimum game level to honor. The TV revenue, which is, you know, one of the NBAs,  kind of their cash cow.

[00:12:08] So there was a lot of financial incentives for everyone to cooperate and force like this three months experience and all, all locked in one place. And now they're, they were barely off any time and they're going around the country and games are being canceled, left and right. I mean, could you speak a little bit to like, What's the underlying situation, state of the NBA revenue and 

[00:12:29]Ben Golliver: for sure. So, you know, about 40% of the NBA's revenue comes from game day related income. So that's ticket sales, that's parking that's concessions as jerseys that you might sell the team store during games. And so that's a gigantic chunk. I mean  up to $4 billion over the course of a season, Is going to be coming from that the NBAs, you know, right around eight or 9 billion  in annual revenues.

[00:12:52] So they knew there was going to be a gigantic hit. As soon as the pandemic kind of made it impossible to have fans. They were [00:13:00] bracing for, you know, a mega hit at one point, Adam silver even had a press conference in April of last year where he says, basically our revenues have dropped to zero because we can't do anything.

[00:13:09] You know? No one's buying any merchandise because we're not holding games and we don't get any game day revenue. We've gotten nothing on television. So we're sort of  in a situation where our television partners are just tapping their feet. It's a really difficult spot for them to be in , the bubble wound up being an extraordinary success for two reasons.

[00:13:25] Number one, not a single person tested positive when they were inside the bubble for the coronavirus. So that's over the course of a 93 or 94 day period. At least when I was down there. But you know, people, other people had to be down there for more than a hundred days. It's extraordinary that they had a perfect health record, but they were also able to basically invest $200 million.

[00:13:45] In constructing, managing, securing, and playing out all the bubble. And then they were able to turn that investment into basically a billion dollars or so of recouped television revenue, right. By being able to play 88 regular season games, [00:14:00] televising all of those, and then proceeding with a full playoffs and to play and round on top of it.

[00:14:05] And that's a lot of hours that they were able to get on television. Now, some of the ratings were down this year because you had it at a different time of the season, you know, by the end of the playoffs, you're competing with baseball, NFL football, college football, major league soccer and hockey all simultaneously.

[00:14:21] So, you know, kind of, of course the ratings would be down.  But at the same time, that's a lot better than having zero revenue and nothing on television. So the bubble accomplished at school from that standpoint, but. No, the problem that they faced is that as soon as it was over, the players were like, look, we can not do that again for eight months, period.

[00:14:38] Like there's no way we can do an entire season in a bubble. It was just too hard. It was too rigorous. And the owners also wanted to kind of get things back on track where  they're getting  towards being able to generate that arena revenue, even if it's only, you know, in a fractionally to start, they want to get that back on track.

[00:14:56] So as one executive told me a team executive, he basically [00:15:00] said, look, the owners wanted their arenas back and the players wanted their lives back. So that's why they weren't going to do a bubble again. And what you've seen this year, there's been a lot of fallout from that decision you've got all told dozens of players, testing positive for COVID.

[00:15:14]this season, you have more than a dozen games already postponed because of players, either testing positive or teams being caught up in, in contact tracing.  Those games are going to have to be made up. At some point you would assume the NBA had to make some major compromises with a schedule. It only released the schedule half at a time, you know, w with a break built in to try to make up games,

[00:15:36] and so, you know, all these things have been compromised as the league has had to make, but ultimately they felt like they wanted to pursue this strategy of, of getting teams back in arenas and trying to play the season. Normally. So that they could sort of condition fans here down the road to get ready, to come back to buildings once it's safe, completely.

[00:15:53] And then also to get as many games as possible on television, which they're continuing to do so far this season 

[00:16:00] [00:15:59] David Smooke: in this television contracts.   I imagine that they're hitting the minimums for the TV company, but.  Do you know,  when it's up and how much of the future of the league is on the negotiation with the television contract?

[00:16:12] Ben Golliver: [00:16:12] Yeah, so they have a nine-year television agreement with their two major partners. That's ESPN and Turner. It was basically kicked in, in 2016 2017 season. And it will run through 2024, 2025.  According to reports, it's worth almost $3 billion , somewhere in the $2.6 billion range.

[00:16:30] And that was more than double or I guess, yeah. Right around double, not quite triple what the previous agreement was. So you have seen skyrocketing television rights revenue deals in part, because you know, these companies are not only bidding on the ability to put it on TV, but they're also turning it into digital content streaming content.

[00:16:50]You know, other NBA related products that they could put either in apps or, you know, on their website or, or whatever else. So the NBA has [00:17:00] been really benefiting from having a younger, more tech savvy audience compared to some other sports. And they were able to really show that through on their last television rights deal.

[00:17:09] Now here's the problem. Since they signed that you see a lot of cord cutting, right? And you've seen some layoffs at Disney, which owns ESPN and other media networks really, you know, changing yeah. Or evolve what their business models look like. And so for the NBA, the most important thing they can do financially is kind of position the league as best as possible.

[00:17:30] So that once they get to 20, 25 and the media rights deals are up. They have the strongest possible bids you know, at their disposal to sign that next deal. I mean, this is a massive chunk of their overall revenue coming from the television partners without those national TV deals the salary cap would not be rising like it has for the last 20 years.

[00:17:48] I mean, that's sort of the most important thing you know, from the long-term health of the league. And I think what the NBA was already positioning itself prior to the pandemic was wanting to [00:18:00] court companies, whether it would be like Amazon, Netflix, Apple, you know, other digital first content companies.

[00:18:09] They wanted to sort of be in the mix for them as possible broadcast partners, because they weren't totally convinced that. The cable companies, the traditional cable companies were still going to be the big dogs on the, on the block. And a lot can change between now and 2025, for sure. But I think that, you know, the pandemic disruption caused by this, on the, on the television networks is going to be a major factor.

[00:18:32] That's going to potentially, you know, change the course of the NBA's business. 

[00:18:37] David Smooke: Yeah. I think it's a good thing to email your boss's boss's boss about. And get your way to Mr. Amazon. It's definitely I think the NBA's ownership and licensing of digital content, like right now, I think they're giving up too much of the digital rights to the TVs and letting the TVs resell it to other, you know, licensing licensing services.

[00:18:58] If you think about it, like when they're [00:19:00] in this position of 20, 25 and having to renew with the TV deals, if I were them, I would be trying to give. The TV network as little as possible of the, like giving them the main games, but when you have such a large library, like the NBA and you have so many ongoing new in demand events, like you're almost at the point of your own network.

[00:19:19] And like their most valuable customers are probably the league pass subscribers, you know? Cause then they, they go in person, they pay directly to subscribe to the NBA. Like have you seen kind of a trend or any type of like push and investment of kind of taking league pass to the next level? Because the league pass their subscription services kind of You know, it's not as good as YouTube TV or Netflix, just in like simple, like the product itself terms, but it's also like, I don't know what the hell the base is growing.

[00:19:47] And I guess all these kinds of, whenever you have a large fan base, it's a battle of like the little one at the top may pay you by watching a game or two a month. You know, the bigger one down there may [00:20:00] subscribe to you directly. And you have these in between people talking about you all the time. So like, They have a lot of customers.

[00:20:05] And I guess I'm just curious if you think they're going to try and sell directly more to their fans. 

[00:20:12] Ben Golliver: [00:20:12] So the subscription numbers on league pass are up, but not nearly up enough to make up for the dropping in cable television viewers, if that makes sense. And the NBA has seen a real hit on its viewership numbers, even prior to the pandemic, they were, they were down noticeably from a few years ago now.

[00:20:30] The NBA will push back and, you know, cite different factors. You know, guys were injured like Kevin Tran, Steph Curry. So that's obviously going to end Zion Williamson to start last year. That's obviously going to influence  massive casual fan viewership numbers. Right. But yeah, they're, they're kind of a crossroads here because you know, I think that the digital products aren't growing fast enough for them in terms of like the direct to consumer model and there's the NBA is such a highlight friendly.

[00:20:57] A league. I know a lot of people who [00:21:00] listen to our podcast, who don't even mind my basketball podcasts, who don't even watch games. They watch highlights on, on Twitter. They read people's tweets about the sport. Maybe they're going to read articles every once in a while. And they're going to see the you know, the top 10 dunks of the night or whatever it might be and listen to podcasts and never even watched the games.

[00:21:18] And so from the NBA standpoint, like those people are fans, right? And they're going to be monetized. They're probably going to buy jerseys. They're going to be supporting the league in other indirect ways. But the thing you really need them to do is to pay for your television content. If that's where the, you know, or pay for tickets to go in person.

[00:21:34] And I think the NBA has a lot of fans spread out across the globe who aren't able to pay in person because there are no teams anywhere near them. And so if they're not subscribing either through league pass or through some television provider, That's a major problem for the league. And I think that we're seeing with the rise of cord, cutting more fans, being willing to make those kinds of compromises, right.

[00:21:54]And seek out content in other ways, or just fall the sport in a less direct manner. And you know, the [00:22:00] NBA is aware of this, right? There's been certain situations where they've gone in, they've cracked down on. You know, YouTube highlight makers, you know, people who they feel like are pushing the bounds of fair use and providing almost too good of a product that's condensed so that people can just watch a five minute clip online rather than watching the two hour game.

[00:22:17]So, you know, the NBA is aware of this issue, but they haven't come out with some, from like here's our 10 commandments to, you know, increase our digital engagement or anything like that. You know, their, their general philosophy is they want to be on every single social media platform. They want to be embracing every new technology.

[00:22:33] So if Tik TOK comes along, they, they want to be the number one sport on Tik TOK. They want to beat baseball. They want to beat football. They want to be hockey to those platforms. And that they're hoping that they can convert those users into paying customers down the road. That's sort of their strategy.

[00:22:50] And sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't. 

[00:22:52] David Smooke: The viewing experience I really want is I would call it 48 minutes and it's literally just the game. Cause I find myself I'll watch [00:23:00] like a YouTube TV and I'll record it and watch it later. And I have to like spend a bunch of time, keep hitting that little 15 second button.

[00:23:07]What I really want is to just see the game. I don't need the commentary and stats while they're shooting free throws. I don't need any of the commercials.  I mean, there are like things you could customize the viewer a little bit to make it more basketball friendly, and like, this is a player for basketball because I think baseball kind of done that version of it and MLB got a good bit of subscribers because you know, a baseball game, you can get down to like 12 minutes.

[00:23:29] It's pretty cool.

[00:23:30] Ben Golliver: Well, so the NBA has pursued some of that or at least they've talked about pursuing it. I think their goal is, you know, down the road, they would like fans to be able to choose from a typical visual broadcast. From a fully customizable pick your favorite camera angle and watch from that broadcast or a broadcast focused.

[00:23:49] If you just have one favorite star player, you can watch the LeBron cam the entire game. You could pick that. They would also like you to be able to watch in virtual reality, if you have a headset, right? [00:24:00] So they want to have a whole bunch of different visual experiences from the audio standpoint. They would like to have like a, a gym sneaker squeaks audio soundtrack only.

[00:24:08] So you feel like you're in the gym and you can hear the crowd noise, but you're not hearing any broadcasters. There'd be another option for the normal broadcast. There would be another option for your home radio broadcasters. If you want to listen to the Homer call. There would be the road option. There would be multiple language options.

[00:24:24] And then there could also be options where you're listening to people who are sort of like podcasting about the game almost, right? Like they're, they're less professional version of color commentators, but they're just sort of carrying on a conversation while they're watching the game. So you get this sort of at-home buddy buddy experience.

[00:24:41] They want to be able to almost give a menu of options to fans down the road so you can pick and choose your favorite. And for you, that might be, I want the sound effects with the stadium and I want the typical television broadcast for some, you know, younger fan. It might be, I want to watch Steph Curry the entire time.

[00:24:57] And I want to listen to the Homer warriors radio announcers, [00:25:00] because I'm just a Steph Steph Curry diehard. And I need all the stuff Curry in my life. And you know, that that could help some of these, these growth questions, but they haven't gotten there yet. 

[00:25:11] David Smooke: I think one of the coolest things about Steph Curry is he just looks like everybody, you know, there's that element that like, you don't have to be a giant to be good at this game.

[00:25:20] I've really enjoyed the, I think the warriors resurgence this year has just been pretty fun.  If dream on green could like, Be a great player while getting five points a game. And like, can't really jump in as well anymore. Anyway, I missed the game. Yeah. And I've been to, so the last game I saw in person was my aunt LA at Miami in the regular season in Miami, then I came home and I haven't been on a plane in 15 months.

[00:25:47] How, how are you doing without the, because your job used to be traveling all over the place right now, and now you've basically done bubble in the bubble and then bubble in LA and you know, how are you dealing with staying in one 

[00:26:00] [00:25:59] Ben Golliver: [00:25:59] place? No, it's tough, man. You know, I've, I've been to two games this year at the Lakers first two games and playing them in those cavernous arenas.

[00:26:07] It was just a brutal viewing experience. You know, they obviously they set us way back from the court. For health reasons, which I totally understand, but having such amazing basketball players playing in an empty building, it just feels wrong. Like the Lakers, getting their championship rings in front of no fans without him, silver kind of being like we promise we'll do another ceremony once you guys can kind of come back.

[00:26:29] It's just so sad, you know, and it really makes you feel empty. So I've been watching games at all more this year than ever in like probably the last six or seven years. Cause I do try to get to as many games as I possibly can, especially since I moved to LA. In 2015. So my life has been totally different because I'm just kind of unlocked out here.

[00:26:47] But at the same time, the pandemic is so bad. And in Los Angeles, right now, it almost feels unethical or silly or not intelligent to go out even to a, you know, an NBA arena that has [00:27:00] been. You know, very carefully set up to be a safe spot. It just doesn't feel like the right decision. So I've been doing a lot more interviews by telephone than I've ever had to do in the past and trying to adjust that way.

[00:27:11] But you know, I missed the game, so there was no question. I mean, I was very excited to go down to the bubble. Once I realized it was going to be a safe environment, because I was going to get to go see two games every single night for three months straight and all those games carried stakes and there was amazing storylines kind of in every single one of those series.

[00:27:29] Right now this, this season has felt a little bit emptier and we'll see if they're going to be able to come up with something better for the playoffs, but playing playoff games in those giant empty buildings is, is not great.  I would almost, if I had to choose, I would say, well, maybe it's just for the last, you know, two or three rounds of the playoffs, but I would try to get back into a bubble personally.

[00:27:48] Cause I think it was just a better experience for the players, better experience for the, you know, there was no fans, but for the viewing public. And then a better experience for both the league, you know, it's television product and you know, just [00:28:00] also for media members too. 

[00:28:02] David Smooke: [00:28:02] Yeah. I think it's going to end up in a bubble again, personally, but they're definitely the language I hear people talking with is no one wants to really talk about that and they just want to You know, kind of make it through like everybody else.

[00:28:14]Another story around the NBA that I, I was pretty curious on your take on it's about someone else who, you know, works in the arena has press credentials and it's the photographers. So there's this case that the photographer takes this great photo of LeBron James, LeBron, James posted it to his Instagram.

[00:28:32] Photographer, Sue's LeBron for posting his photo without accreditation or permission. And then LeBron counter sues him for suing him and saying, it's a picture of myself and I made it worth more money by posting it. It's kind of my understanding. So w w have you followed this story and do you have any opinion on what the hell is it?

[00:28:53] Ben Golliver: [00:28:53] I have, I mean, it, it just feels very personal and kind of like, you know, Hopefully, you just wish it wouldn't have gotten [00:29:00] to that level. I'm not an expert on the legal matters of, of fair use or, you know, copyright issues and all that stuff. I just, personally, I take a lot of videos when I'm at arenas, you know, post-game interviews and including of LeBron and, you know, they go very viral and people will take them and they'll not credit and they'll use it for their own sources.

[00:29:19]Some official outlets will ask you to, for approval to use it, which is always nice. And I usually just am like, Kind of throw my hands up and say, yeah, everybody can use it.  I don't really personally care that much. You know, to me, it's just kind of, it's disposable content, it's all part of a cycle.

[00:29:34] It's just always going to be there. And I don't have any personal way to really like monetize my video content from that standpoint. So I, I don't really worry about it too much. So I don't know. I, I understand photographers would feel differently because there is a strict price. A lot of times, if you know, if you want to use a photo from Getty images or.

[00:29:52] No, you want to use it in some sort of a commercial in Denver endeavor, you have to pay for it. And you know, certainly LeBron's Instagram [00:30:00] is a commercial endeavor regularly. I mean, he is, he's always selling stuff on there, whether it's Nike sneakers or tequila or all this other stuff. So I could understand why it would be kind of a legal, gray area.

[00:30:10] I just would. Hope it doesn't come to lawsuits. You know, I personally, I would just, I wouldn't have wanted anything to do with that, but I guess we'll just have to see how the judges view it. No, ultimately like he was, I do feel like, like it says photo, the photographer's photo. Right. And that's just kind of part of how it goes.

[00:30:29] I mean, he signed documents too. Being able to sit on the baseline, take that shot and, you know, use it in certain circumstances, as long as he didn't violate those rules. I don't really get the pushback. 

[00:30:42] David Smooke: [00:30:42] Yeah.  It sounds uglier than it should be, but it's also just such a complicated one because of the sense of identity and ownership.

[00:30:49] If you're the subject matter, you're not the owner because he didn't take the picture. But then if you were the subject matter, shouldn't you have like some rights to it or are they stripped away with his NBA contracts, you know, and [00:31:00] being on that floor means whatever happens on that floor is content owned by a different organization.

[00:31:04] So it's a, it's a pretty complicated one. In terms of monetizing content, you're kind of making a shift here of like you have  podcasting the Washington post, and now you're kind of adding a book income here. Do you have any expectations of like, Hey, the book's going to make me as much as my primary job, or my goal is for the book to make me more money than the job, or is it like, Hey, if anyone reads my book, it's amazing.

[00:31:30] Ben Golliver: [00:31:30] Yeah, no, I mean, I definitely am not writing it for the money. I mean, to me it was just kind of a bucket list thing. You know, like I said, the opportunity to sort of fell in my lap and I was. I'm just really excited that the publishing house would, would support it and put it out there.  I've heard from a lot of other writers, it's like the most thrilling feeling to be able to just kind of like holding your hand or to see it on a bookshelf.

[00:31:50] You know, once we were able to kind of go back into bookstores on a regular basis, There's this really famous bookstore in Portland called pals books. And I just remember being a really young kid going in there. They [00:32:00] called it the city of books because it's an entire city block. You know, you go into all these different rooms, they're color coded by subject material.

[00:32:07] I mean, I remember spending just hours there as a kid. You know, they have a huge sports section. So I mean, like if I could ever go to pals and see the book there, it's like that to me is just priceless and that's sort of what I'm doing for , in terms of a kind of long-term big picture business stuff.

[00:32:21]No, I, I still view myself as a writer and reporter first. The podcasting industry to me is, is in the middle of a nice boom right now. And I do just to kind of encourage anybody who's in media to think of how they can diversify and improve their versatility of skills. Right. I was very reluctant to join podcasts the first time that it was kind of brought up to me when I was at sports illustrated.

[00:32:43] I. Never really necessarily wanted to be on camera that much either. I just am a little bit more of a introverted person, but I think, you know, longterm, as you're looking towards, you know, digital trends,  people are using tablets more than they used to use TVs. They are reading shorter than they used to read [00:33:00] longer.

[00:33:00] They are listening more than they used to read. And so you want to make sure that your skills match  what the demand is, and you want to make sure that you're capable of communicating the ways that people want to communicate. So. Th that's just been kind of a real focus for me. I want to make sure I'm on social media regularly.

[00:33:16] I want to make sure that I can do an okay job podcasting and tell stories that way. Now I want to make sure I'm promoting my written work in as many different avenues as possible to kind of reach those  eyeballs and, and hopefully,  convert some people to subscribers. 

[00:33:30] Nobody can predict where the media is going in the next five or 10 years. If you had told me five years ago that I was going to own a podcast company, I would have been like, what, you know, that, that makes no sense whatsoever. So it's, you know, one step at a time, one day at a time and you just kind of see where it goes.

[00:33:45] David Smooke: [00:33:45] Yeah. At hacker noon, we employ editors and all of them do this, this podcast. So we kind of alternate and it's like the job of writing and editing online, or just being online . A podcast is part of it.  If you want to be a media company,  making the story accessible, [00:34:00] you can have a specialty in terms of like, Text audio video or type of each, but you kind of have to perform across all of them.

[00:34:07] And like then like suddenly the, like a feature image of a blog post can have as much impact on the distribution of it as the actual headline itself. And it's like, okay, that's kind of weird, but it's like, images are what we click on in the newsfeed. If this is a story driven by the newsfeed, that image is going to like really matter.

[00:34:24] So there's like these forms run into each other and I mean, I do the same thing. Hey, I want to get my skills better. I want to do more podcasting because it's, it's more, it's part of the discussion of media today. I'm in player. You see it with NBA players. What is it? CJ McCollum has his own podcast.

[00:34:43] Kevin Duran. Then you see the transition. I really liked how the up and smoke guys. Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes. They're transitioning into media, not by waiting for someone to give them a job and say, Hey, I have to go in and get the job at the larger media company. They're saying, Hey, I can put on the [00:35:00] microphone, start the company right now.

[00:35:01] And then with one of these other companies want to buy my show, they could, or they could license it. So I think the individual creators it's a pretty exciting time for it in that you see it across your job, taking these incomes from, you know, multiple streams. 

[00:35:15] Ben Golliver: [00:35:15] Well, for sure. I mean the micro payment thing is, is huge shoe and that's something that we've seen with you know, the greatest of all talk podcast that we were on, where it's kind of a subscription podcast, but you know, you charge people on a monthly basis and you use, it's almost like you're crowdsourcing your revenue, right?

[00:35:31] You don't have to be tied to. A major company. You don't need to have some gatekeeper tell you. Okay. You know, we're going to green, light your show, and here you go. It's kind of a ground up operation. I mean, there's two of us as the hosts and we have you know, one podcast producer and that's it.

[00:35:46]That's the entire company. So basically no overhead. And you know, it's look, it's not gonna turn us into the Kardashians. Right. But it's certainly enough for us to be very proud of the progress we've made. To put out a product that we're really proud of [00:36:00] and to, you know, connect in and continue to have a community with some listeners that, you know, wouldn't have existed if we were relying solely on, you know, big company mano listen, and a decision-maker.

[00:36:11] So, you know, from that standpoint, it's, it's satisfying on a number of levels. And I think it's indicative of sort of where things are going. You know, you're seeing a lot of writers and journalists leave. Mainstream outlets and do the sub stack newsletters. I think it's a similar phenomenon here with the podcast where you can, you know, you can set up pretty easily a subscription podcast.

[00:36:29] And if people are, have been following you for a long time, and they're your diehards, you will be able to kind of sustain your work you know, through that model. And I think that's only going to accelerate the more splintered and, you know, the less, the less or I guess the more trouble that the company's facing from a layoff standpoint, from a cost cutting standpoint, from a merger standpoint and all of that.

[00:36:48] The more opportunity there is for the little guy to just get a piece of the overall pie. And, you know, for me personally, I've enjoyed it. You know, I it's, it's nice to kind of feel like you're, you're your own boss in certain situations. [00:37:00] And it's nice to feel like people have your back and support you.

[00:37:03] And it's been very rewarding from that standpoint. 

[00:37:07] David Smooke: [00:37:07] Yeah, that's cool to hear. And these newsletters are definitely growing a lot. And you kind of have your free group and then you have that. You're getting a lot and then you have a couple of paid ones. And it's I think this is one of the simpler path to go on your own as a creator.

[00:37:19] You want subscribers and the newsletter is a good nugget to say, if you don't subscribe, you don't, if you don't pay me, you don't get it. Same with the podcast. You don't pay me. You don't get the podcast episode. Moving back to your book. It comes out on may the fourth. Was that by design as a star Wars fan?

[00:37:39] Ben Golliver: [00:37:39] No, it's funny because so I, you know, I'm a big Lego guy, right? I love, like I love Lego sets. I just build them like crazy. 

[00:37:47] David Smooke: [00:37:47] So I started getting back into Legos because of my daughter. So it's been an, you know, I missed him for 15, 20 years and now we have him in the house again. It's pretty 

[00:37:56] Ben Golliver: [00:37:56] cool. I love it, man.

[00:37:58] There was so great. But the funny thing is I [00:38:00] have hardly seen any of the star Wars movies. I really know nothing about the series. So apologies to any of your listeners who are big star Wars fans. So no that was unintentional. And w what kills me is that there's so many cool star Wars, Lego sets, and yet I can't really appreciate them cause I don't really know the movies inside and out.

[00:38:16] So they have all these, like high-end lights go sets and I'm like, God, well, should I just buy it and build it? Even if I don't care about the movie. And so far, I haven't been able to talk myself into doing that, but No, it's yeah, may the fourth. I don't know exactly how we pick that date. I know the goal was to try to get it out right around the playoffs for the 20, 21 season.

[00:38:34] And you know, obviously we wanted the book to be out quickly after the bubble, because you just never knew what was going to happen. You know, as, as a 2020 got away from us to society, you know, you're always worried, okay, well, you don't want too much time to pass, so that's why it's coming out 

[00:38:48] David Smooke: [00:38:48] so quickly.

[00:38:49]Yeah. People have short lifespans these life or remembering short memories of these days. Back to the NBA and the Washington post, you had a recent story talking about possible [00:39:00] expansion by the NBA into Seattle and Las Vegas. And I find this extremely interesting because  it's a revenue share thing.

[00:39:07] So if there's another team comes in, that's another team that gets a percentage of the total revenue and the total profits. So across the whole board, once you bring in another franchise, you know, everyone gets a little smaller piece of the pie, but at the same time, there's an expansion fee. So it becomes this one time, a massive influx of revenue.

[00:39:27] And so. I mean in the story, not to recap the whole thing, but you know, the NBA's looking at losing around $4 billion this year and an expansion fee would be around two and a half billion. So suddenly you can go from losing money to maybe even being profitable this year with doing an expansion. So.

[00:39:46] It's a, I think it's a pretty smart move. Actually, if they think it's going to keep declining, if they think revenue in 2022 is going to be similar like this, it's probably safer to get more cash now, because if they wait longer, the demand, the franchise [00:40:00] fee will decline because they'll see a longer lifespan of low numbers.

[00:40:04] So I guess my question for you is, do you think they're going to expand soon? 

[00:40:09] Ben Golliver: [00:40:09] I definitely think it's possible for the first time in a while. You know, if you had asked me that question before the pandemic, I'd be like, no, they just always talked about it. They're never serious about it. I think one of the most important things to keep in mind, Is the disparities in wealth between the ownership groups.

[00:40:26] Right? So now obviously everyone who owns an NBA team is a lot wealthier than the average NBA fan, but you've got, you know, some tech guys or investment banking guys who just have extraordinary billions and billions of dollars, right? I mean, Steve Balmer ridiculously rich. He could almost afford to buy every other team.

[00:40:44]You know, the Clippers owner, he could probably buy like 10 or 1520 teams. And still have money left over at the end of it. There are other owners. Yeah. So in different industries that have had a much harder time. So the obvious examples, Tilman, Fertitta, Houston. Where his main business is restaurants.

[00:40:59]You know, the [00:41:00] CEO of Landry's Inc. He had to, you know, furlough like 30,000 people, right? When the pandemic started, most of his restaurants aren't back open, you know, surprise, surprise. He traded away James harden and Russell Westbrook. He loses his GM. He loses his coach all in the span of about seven or eight months.

[00:41:18] And to me, that's a real sign of the economic struggles, a similar situation in Oklahoma city where. That franchise is owned by you know, basically oil you know, energy executives. And, you know, you're in a situation there where, you know, they wind up rebuilding, they trade Chris Paul away, they'd go younger and pursue a youth movement.

[00:41:37] They get a super young head coach who's never coached before and they're making their decisions based on finances as well. Right? So the, the teams that are really feeling the heat, especially in the small market or if their ownership groups are in industries that aren't doing quite as well, are going to be so much more motivated now to take that that expansion fee cut because.

[00:41:56] That's their lifeline. It would completely wipe out the loss of that. They've [00:42:00] sustained here for last season and this season, and potentially more losses headed into next season. If fans aren't going to be able to be back in the building, whereas there are going to be some other ownership groups, especially the ones who are in you know, tech sectors, for example, where their owners have probably actually made money overall during the pandemic who are going to be saying, well, you know, we don't necessarily need to do this.

[00:42:20] You know, we don't want to dilute our product. You know, we can just kind of keep things how it is. So. The owners are coming at it from different perspectives. But I do think that this is going to be the biggest momentum the NBA has seen. And it's not just to erase the losses. It's also because you've got a couple of markets that actually have NBA ready buildings.

[00:42:39] And this has been a problem in the past, you know, Seattle lost the Supersonics. Because th the arena, wasn't up to the NBAs you know, desires and you saw both Sacramento and Milwaukee barely avert losing their franchises by building new arenas. And you've also seen now in both Las Vegas and Seattle NBA, quality arenas be built in the last couple of [00:43:00] years.

[00:43:00] And those arenas are actually going to host NHL teams. And so a lot of times in a lot of markets, you see the combo NHL, NBA team share the same arena and that winds up being a really profitable, mutually beneficial situation for the arena owner, for the entertainment district around the arena and for the team owners as well.

[00:43:19] So you have two very obvious candidates in Vegas and Seattle who are kind of just ready to be plugged in. Certainly you can imagine that they would be able to meet those kinds of asking prices on the expansion fees and you add it all up, you know, with the, with the increased interest on the the owner side, I could see this taking place within the next couple of years.

[00:43:37] And we've also heard from some local officials in both Las Vegas and Seattle, that they're very eager and in support of of the NBA expansion. And that's not always the case. Sometimes local government stands in the way of these kinds of things. So if everybody's lined up it does kind of seem like it would make sense.

[00:43:54] Your perspective 

[00:43:55] David Smooke: [00:43:55] definitely makes me think it's going to happen sooner rather than later, because these [00:44:00] small market teams getting the large checkup front, more of them banning together. And if you think also about balance of power, I think if there's more small market teams, it's going to be, it could be harder for the big market teams to get their big threes and big twos.

[00:44:14] And, you know, maybe there's a, a little more possibility there and. I'm hopeful also that one of my favorite things for Kevin Durant in Seattle, I think the best way to end his career would be to bring it to battle. It would kind of be one-upping the LeBron like coming home to Cleveland. It's like I came home and I brought a franchise with me would kind of be like a really cool ending to his, his story.

[00:44:38] When I heard him read your story, like from afar, you know, more of the startup perspective, the idea that they would now be open to expansion. I looked at it more as like companies being open to taking on other people's, you know, debt and financing. And I thought of cause there's this company called notion that I actually, I sent you the notes for this podcast on and they refused venture capital for the longest [00:45:00] time and just kept growing.

[00:45:01] And then during the pandemic, they raised 50 million, which is like, you know, not a ton compared to a lot of startups, but the valuation was 1.7 billion. So they raised an amount that they didn't really need to like show how valuable the price of the product was,  and say, Hey, I know there's a lot going on.

[00:45:18] There's pandemic in the world. Money is who knows the financing is going to come back or not. And in a lot of ways it did, but at the time you weren't sure. So it was a good way to like, Show strength. So if your ratings are so, so, you know, and you just came off, this thing and games are getting canceled, it seems to me like a very good show of strength.

[00:45:36] If they can have more franchises be issued at this really high price and say, getting into this thing, even with the troubles we have is still this high and this high of a fee. So I really think like, That the, the, the owners that are like the bombers and the ones that don't want to do any future rev share should kind of swallow their pride a little bit and let them fight for expansion.

[00:45:57] Ben Golliver: [00:45:57] For sure. And I think the NBA has a really compelling case that [00:46:00] there's still very well positioned longterm. You know, with the younger audience, with the incredible increase of franchise values that most owners, you know, a lot of these owners have bought in. If you bought in during the 1980s, you know, you're buying in for a couple of hundred million dollars and now your franchise is worth 2 billion, right?

[00:46:16] So you made your money, you, your investment went up just crazy. And even owners who bought 10 or 15 years ago have seen their investment. From the franchise value standpoint really skyrocket here. So I, I think that the NBA should be able to get those kinds of prices and there will be people who are interested in buying it.

[00:46:33] It's just another reason why  it could happen. The one issue that I would clarify here a little bit is on this idea of competitive balance because the last time the NBA went through a major expansion where they added a bunch of teams and in short order was the late eighties and the mid nineties.

[00:46:50] And that actually triggered a long dynasty. It kind of furthered the Chicago bulls with Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippin. And basically what happened was you had all these really bad [00:47:00] teams get brought into the league once they consolidated to stars. And then they added, you know, Dennis Rodman, you know, for the second three-peat, they were able to kind of beat up on a, on a water, down the league as a lot of analysts back then would call it.

[00:47:12] And so I think the concern would be, if you did add two teams now, And you already have this, a player empowerment era where guys are deciding to team up. If they were able to kind of manipulate trades, like they've been able to do for the last five or six years and put together a super team. It could set up a situation where that super team is even more difficult for the average team to beat because the talent everywhere else is kind of spread out even more thinly.

[00:47:35] Right. So 

[00:47:38] David Smooke: [00:47:38] in the transition, it would definitely happen. Like those expansion drafts, the new teams never get the best players. Like the first couple of years, you're always going to be like pretty diluted right from the start 

[00:47:49] Ben Golliver: [00:47:49] for sure. And so I guess the concern right now is you've pretty much every year you've got like six to eight teams out of the 30.

[00:47:55] That just have no shot whatsoever. And that's been a real sore spot for Adam silver in terms of [00:48:00] trying to make sure that every team has a chance to at least be competitive every single season. Right. And so if you expanded that number, so instead of, you know, six to 10, you know, that number winds up being eight to 12 every single year, because now you've got 32 teams and, you know, one or two super teams it's just dominating everything.

[00:48:17]That that could be concerned that you want to keep it in the back of your mind. And silver has mentioned that as a possible hangup and. At the NBA is just always looking for ways to keep the playing field a little bit more level than it's been. And so far they've kind of struck out every time, every time the players just come up with a new way to create a super team, as soon as they close the previous 

[00:48:36] David Smooke: [00:48:36] loopholes, part of it is just the nature of the game.

[00:48:39] There's only five guys on the court. The best guy has one much more than the second best, second best is worth so much more than third. And there's, you know, there's obviously tears to this, but it's like, if LeBron's on your team, you're always going to have a chance. If your best players do, sovich, you know, the magic may be in a tough spot.

[00:48:55] So it's like some of it is just how large the impact is for all these [00:49:00] guys. And I get really mixed on super teams because they, I always want to watch the best possible basketball that there is. So if the best and more of the more best players on the court, it can get interesting. But. Without, and it gets this whole like Haydel's and like people like hating them, liking them and drawing interest in the game.

[00:49:18] But yeah, it hurts, you know, is there a good product every time? I guess kinda my last question for you is getting back to this theme of NBA revenue. If you were running the NBA, what do you think you would be focusing on to drive more revenue for the 

[00:49:34] Ben Golliver: [00:49:34] NBA? Well, I think that they need to have a best in class digital product and the league pass is not there.

[00:49:41]On any given night, if I log in, whether it's from my phone or from my tablet, it's either log in issues. It's not connecting. You know, it just, it's not as seamless and as easy and as one touch as it should be. I mean, you should just be able to call up any game. They've struggled with some blackout issues as well in terms of what market you're in and that [00:50:00] kind of thing.

[00:50:00] And they need to really just think about their overall delivery product. From a digital first perspective here going forward rather than a cable first perspective. And I think they should be developing a lot more content towards that digital audience  built around the app. Right now, you know, you look at NBA TV, they have some interesting commentators, some interesting voices on there, but that is not really a fully fledged, you know, built out network.

[00:50:26] I mean, mostly they're just showing highlights. And I think if you compare the NBAs individual media product compared to baseballs or football is I think it gets it's definitely lagging. And so, you know, they, they had an interesting experiment with guys, like you know, the, the starters who they brought in and they wound up just kind of going away from that.

[00:50:43] I thought that was kind of the right direction to go. I mean, have more. NBA produced an NBA you know, created crafted content for your fan base that can supplement your television product and supplement your app product to kind of have a more immersive overall experience. They've got the the resources to [00:51:00] compete with basically anybody.

[00:51:01] And so I think they should be having, you know, kind of better content options from that state. The app could be a lot better, like I described. And then I would also be, you know, like I mentioned earlier, really thinking long and hard about who are the best. Tech platforms that to partner with, if it's in someday in the future, if it's not Turner, or if it's not ESPN, or maybe there's some sort of a media conglomerate where you are able to kind of keep those deals going, but you also strike a deal with a YouTube or an Amazon or a Netflix.

[00:51:30] I mean, which of these companies really share your values and you know, who can reach the most possible new fans and kind of convert them into subscribers because ultimately that's their biggest challenge right now. Is getting people to pay to play rather than just enjoying the sport for free. So I think those would be my main focus.

[00:51:48] I think those are the NBAs main focus. I'm not like inventing anything out of thin air. I think these are kind of the obvious challenges for them. They're so aware of this challenge by the way. That they study [00:52:00] viewer habits down to the second. And they actually changed the ordering of timeouts within games.

[00:52:06] In terms of when coaches would call time out or when they would do the media time-outs for, you know, like commercial breaks, because they were finding in certain situations that too many people were tuning out. If there was like multiple timeouts back to back slowing the action down. Right. And so they're aware that they're getting this constant pressure to retain eyeballs and it's been something that's been on the front burner for them for years.

[00:52:27] And I still think that a they've got a ways to go. The other thing I would do is cut down on some of the stop. It just a play. I would get rid of the coach's challenge, which they added recently. It seems like that was just an extra layer to slow things down. I would really think about late game scenarios, limiting the number of time outs that could be called in quick succession.

[00:52:46] So we can get through those situations. I would think about scaling back the overall review procedures. Too many reviews that aren't really that important and wind up bogging the game down. Now we'll try to get back to a little bit more of a pure visual viewing experience for [00:53:00] fans because people love basketball.

[00:53:01] They don't want to watch referee staring at. You know, TV monitors on the side of the court. And that happens too often right now. And the games drag, especially in the playoffs, when, you know, there's constant reviews and coaches trying to interject and lobby referees and all that kind of stuff. So those are some of the things I would be working on trying to get a tighter package from the overall visual experience.

[00:53:22] You know, don't expect people to watch for two and a half hours every night, try to cut that time down. And I think you'd have some better success. 

[00:53:29] David Smooke: Yeah, I lived in San Francisco. I used to have warriors season tickets and still one of my favorite moments of basketball is game seven, 2016 finals. And part of it is because there was no stoppage of play.

[00:53:43] It was.  Hit after hit stop after stop. And it was just four minutes of these people just duking out their lives and like putting it all out there. And it was just like, obviously I want to do the warriors to win, but it was just like, that was amazing basketball and it didn't have the, it had the flow and you're [00:54:00] actually being able to watch the whole game.

[00:54:01] And yeah. So definitely relate to you there. And I mean, the last time we talked that NBA had announced a partnership with Microsoft and Microsoft has. The hosting capabilities to, you know, build the NBAs rebuild league pass in a much better way. So I think like we haven't really heard any announcements there, but I think it's going to be kind of a hedge between licensing to more of these tech companies, but also building up their own own platform more is kind of where I see it heading.

[00:54:29] So. Thank you a lot for taking the time to talk to hacker noon. You know, we're more on the tech media, but we cover a lot of business and economics as well. And I'm just a huge fan of the NBA. And thanks a lot, Ben for taking some time to talk 

[00:54:44] Ben Golliver: with us. Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks so much. And you know, stay safe and best wishes to you and your family.

[00:54:51] David Smooke: Cool bubble ball, Buy the book.

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by David Smooke @David.Founder & CEO of HackerNoon. Grew up on the east coast. Grew old on the west coast. Now, cooking in Colorado.
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