In experimenting in a broadcast booth without a traditional play by
play man, TNT accomplished their first goal.
They got me to watch.
A late season game between the Thunder and Warriors wouldn't be much
cause for interest except for fans of either team or committed NBA
followers. The all analyst booth of Steve Kerr, Reggie Miller, and
Chris Webber was a draw for sports fans who might be curious how a
game would sound without the traditional setup of play by play and
analyst. Given the fact that every other nationally televised
broadcast is constructed that way, the roundtable feel of last night's
TNT broadcast was something unique.
After watching the entirety of last night's game (joined in progress
after Knicks-Bulls went to overtime), the format has enough potential
to be pursued again. Kerr weaved back and forth between traditional
play by play, calling out who made baskets and the score of the game,
with asking questions of Miller and Webber and making observations
himself. If anything, last night's game was a showcase for Steve
Kerr, who showed the depth and versatility of his talent as an
announcer. This is a role that nobody in broadcasting has ever tried
before, and Kerr made it sound as simple as taking open jump shots
next to Michael Jordan.
While Kerr was good, the structure of the booth showed why the role of
a play by play man has been around since the dawn of sports
broadcasts. It's kinda important. There weren't many stats given
during the broadcast at all. There were times during the friends-at-a-
bar nature of the telecast that several possessions went by without
much attention paid to the action on the court. Mostly I missed the
context of what was happening in the game and which moments were
significant, especially when I was writing, checking Twitter, or not
Another issue was the entire broadcast was delivered with the same
tone and pitch throughout. There was really nothing differentiating
the exciting moments from the lulls in action. This second quarter
sequence showed the most glaring weakness of the all analyst setup. A
massive block by Russell Westbrook leads straight to a monster dunk by
Kevin Durant and it sounds like nothing is happening.
The structure was a positive when the game became a blowout in the
second half and the telecast would have become more conversational
anyways. While there was something missing from the broadcast, the
setup did provide some additional insights, in particular the extra
attention paid to offensive sets and crossmatches. The chemistry
between the trio was solid (although Webber's a better analyst than
Miller, who tended to dominate the airwaves last night) as their
relaxed vibe conveyed the atmosphere Turner was probably hoping for -
a conversation surrounding the game.
Should Turner or someone else try this again? There were enough
engaging moments and intrigue worth giving it another try with some
tweaks. Whoever takes the lead role needs to be ready at the drop of
a dime to call out a highlight moment with enthusiasm (which Kerr did
for a buzzer beating 3 at the end of the first half). And, the focus
of the analysts should be more on the game in front of them instead of
general topics about the players, teams or the league.
After last night's broadcast, the format isn't going to be the next
big thing in broadcasting. It wasn't New Coke either. It was an
experiment that might be worth visiting in the lab again as a
refreshing change of pace to give sports fans something new and draw
them into a game that would normally pass us by.