SVG Sit-Down: Miami Heat’s Filomia on What Makes the Team’s In-Arena Experience Unique
The Miami Heat currently finds itself in the thick of the NBA Playoff race — it’s the No. 7 seed as of today — and, should its postseason quest succeed, the team will once again be featured on HEATV on heat.com. The franchise was among the first to launch full-scale shoulder programming covering the team both at home and on the road during its epic postseason runs led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. That effort — along with the Heat’s South Beach-flavored in-arena experience — has drawn plenty of praise and imitation from video-production departments at several other NBA franchises.
SVG sat down with Ed Filomia, senior director, broadcast services, Heat Group, to discuss the team’s potential postseason run, what it means for HEATV on heat.com, and how he sees the NBA’s in-venue–production operation changing.
How has in-venue–video production changed in recent years, and how do you see yourself and other NBA teams pushing it forward?
I think we were trendsetters early on, but now I think pretty much everybody’s kind of reached that bar. Everybody — Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves — upped their game in video production. Today, I think it comes down to the creativity and the thought process. It’s no longer as much about the technical skill because we all have the technical skill; it’s about figuring out the best way to implement that technical skill.
Creatively, how do you and your team try to make the Heat in-game experience unique for your fans?
I don’t know now that there’s any one thing that makes us different, but one element that is unique is the synergy we have with our creative messaging and our branding. [When] you walk into the arena, you are given a tip-off magazine, a program magazine, that has a look and feel and design to it that is carried across all the different digital-signage systems, whether it’s the broadcast of HEATV, the center-hung [videoboard], the LEDs, the digital signage in the restaurants, or the two big digital-signage systems from Sony that 85% of the people see when they walk into the arena. We have that because we want a unified message. We want every detail, from the font to the color of the Heat red, to align.
That all started from the beginning. We sat down with every single department when we opened the doors on Jan. 1, 2000, and threw stuff up against the wall to see what stuck. How about a DJ? What about an in-arena host? What about an interactive Flash game?
I think we also take our lead from our basketball operations. Pat Riley is a legend, and this was part of his vision, too. He saw this facility as something that could put the Heat on the map, and he did that — not just from a basketball sense but from a global sense. What Coach has done is [instill] a family-oriented feeling, a first-class feeling, that’s carried through across the board in every department. I think that’s where we differentiate.
You were among the first NBA teams to provide extensive shoulder programming online during the Heat’s playoff runs — a practice that has now become somewhat commonplace. When did you first decide to go this route, and how have these productions evolved?
Definitely, we were the first. The Bulls had bullstv.com, and the Raptors had raptorstv.com, and they had their variations of production, but ours was basically much like a true news department. When the local coverage stops [after the regular season], where do fans go to? Or when the national coverage focused [on other teams], where did our fans go to? They really didn’t have an outlet because our regional sports network [Sun Sports] was no longer broadcasting the games and it was costly for the local [broadcasters] to travel people for 2½ minutes on the news. And, of course, nba.com does a great job, but we felt like there needed to be something more.
And was this added exposure driven by the signing of the Big Three: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh?
Yes, we took it upon ourselves in 2010 when the franchise changed with the signing of these three guys. We knew we had to take advantage of this moment and feed our global audience. The data research was coming in, and people were logging in to heat.com from all over the world. From Asia to South America, people want their Heat content, and this was a way to kind of give it to them. It was very cool because my counterparts would see [my production team and me] throughout the country and say, “Hey, what are you doing here?” I would [say] we’re putting on a live show. “But doesn’t your TV department do that?’ And I’d say, “We are the TV department.’
And that’s how HEATV on heat.com began. We were live at center court, which is something that the news stations couldn’t do. Access that we have in the season was one thing, but the access that we were able to get in the playoffs was at a completely different level. I mean, we were inside the locker room, we were in the huddle, we had mics on, and we were controlling that content. Nothing got on the air without us approving it first. It’s just a great time for us, and we’re looking forward to seeing what happens this year.