NBA Digital Says Yes to Google TV

The NBA is among the first content providers to get involved with Google TV, delivering its NBA Game Time app to the service to be launched by Google in the next few weeks. Google TV will bring an integrated, Web-like experience to Sony TV sets and Blu-ray players as well as to a Logitech set-top box that can port Google TV to any existing TV.

“NBA Game Time is completely redesigned and is a little more immersive,” says Bryan Perez, NBA Digital, SVP/GM of the app, which was launched in April 2008 and is currently available via Android and Blackberry mobile devices as well as through the Vizio Internet Apps platform and Roku player. The NBA Game Time application will allow fans to follow NBA games in progress with a real-time scoreboard, watch on-demand video highlights optimized for an HD viewing experience, and check the latest league standings and statistics — through their television.

“It was built to go full-screen and offer a lot more information that takes advantage of some of the unique Google TV capabilities,” says Perez. “For example, it has picture-in-picture so you can watch a game, pull up the app, and still watch the game. You can also slip into highlights of other games, and they have been optimized for full-screen video.”

The Google TV service is the latest and most highly visible sign of the shift within the living-room environment whereby Internet content and applications are moving to the large screen in the center of the room. Among the content providers that have already signed on with Google TV are HBO, CNBC, Turner Broadcasting, Amazon Video on Demand, and Netflix. You Tube videos, optimized for large-screen viewing, are also part of the offering, alongside features like Websites redesigned for TV screens, using an iPhone or Android phone as a remote control, “flinging” videos from a computer or phone to the TV, and much more.

Perez says one of NBA Digital’s key advantages was that it had already committed to developing content for Google’s Android platform, the operating system for mobile devices. For the past couple of months, NBA Digital and Google TV have worked closely to design the feature set and functionality.

“Google TV takes advantage of that operating system,” he says, “so we could repurpose a lot of assets by getting under the hood of the code for the mobile apps and recoding it so it could resonate in the living room.”

NBA Digital is a partnership between the NBA and Turner Sports, and Perez says some of the work done by NBA Digital could make it easier for other digital entities that work with Turner Sports — such as NASCAR, the PGA, and the NCAA — to get involved with Google TV.

“Certainly, on the video side, all of the work we have done in terms of the infrastructure and encode optimization could be used by them,” says Perez. “A unique frontend would have to be tailored for each sport.”

Google TV joins a number of other means by which the Internet is coming together with the traditional TV-viewing experience. A number of consumer devices, most notably Blu-ray disk players and Internet-enabled TVs, make it possible for broadband Ethernet cables to be connected directly to them. Those connections do not allow consumers to access the wide-open World Wide Web, but it does allow access to “walled gardens” of content offerings. In addition, dedicated hardware devices like Apple TV, Roku, Boxee, and the Logitech set-top box offer video streaming or content downloaded via the Internet to be played on the big screen.

“Google TV is taking a somewhat different approach than the others because it is a software approach,” says Perez. “They are trying to merge the best of the Web into an interface that makes sense on different displays.”

NBA Digital, like all content providers, is squarely in the middle of the challenge of keeping up with an ever-growing list of devices and operating systems that are creating new ways to keep NBA fans connected to the NBA brand. And long-term NBA teams will be able to take advantage of the work done by NBA Digital.

“This is an active space,” says Perez, “and we are fully committed.”

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