Most of the NBA will soon head to Orlando to form a 22-team bubble league with the aim to crown a 2019-20 champion. However, uncertainty looms on a number of fronts, including some of the logistics of how games will be broadcast across the country. Considering one of the main reasons to convene the bubble at all is to generate the revenue from television and the potential for immense fan interest, it stands to reason that considerable interest will be paid to what the television product looks like. This week, however, word broke from a prominent source that broadcasters may not be dealing with “normal” circumstances, even above and beyond the reality of fan-less games.
In an interview with Tom Byrne and Amin Elhassan on SiriusXM NBA Radio (h/t The Athletic), TNT play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan revealed some details about what the network will be dealing with and it doesn’t necessarily include integration into the bubble from the outset.
“What I’ve heard from the folks at TNT is we will be in the studios in Atlanta and they will set up as close to possible a broadcast table like we would have courtside,” Harlan said. “We will have, I’m assuming, crowd noise pumped into our headsets. I think for the viewer, I don’t think it’s going to seem dramatically different. Now you’re not going to have courts that you recognize from Milwaukee or Los Angeles or Boston, so that’s going to be a little bit weird. But if we’re all just kind of sitting there watching, I don’t know that we’ll really notice a great deal of difference.”
The buzz about crowd noise certainly isn’t new and, even if the NBA tries it and ends up pulling the plug, there won’t be a lot of damage done. With that said, Harlan’s assertion that broadcasters won’t be present is definitely interesting, even when accounting for recent examples (such as ESPN’s broadcasts of KBO games) of announcers operating effectively from studio environments rather than on-site.
It should be noted, though, that Harlan and his colleagues could be heading to Orlando later in the playoffs, even if not until the conference finals.
“The one thing I have heard is that not until the conference finals would there be any consideration for broadcasters being in this setting,” Harlan said. “That might be the first time that an actual broadcaster might be on-site, doing a conference final, and of course, the NBA Finals.”
Very little about the NBA’s bubble setting will be “normal” when compared to life before COVID-19. At the same time, there have been some positive reviews for KBO, Bundesliga, and Turner’s “The Match” in recent days and, considering the effectiveness and professionalism of broadcasters like Harlan, it feels safe to assume that remote broadcasts will be able to capture the moment in an appropriate manner.