MSG Networks, Overtime Look To Tap Into Next Generation of Fans With Alternative Broadcast of Sunday’s Knicks-Lakers Game

Production will leverage existing game cameras but will be produced from its own control room

MSG Networks wants to create the next generation of basketball fans, and it thinks those younger viewers need something extra. That’s why it’s working with Overtime to create a simulcast for Sunday’s Knicks-Lakers game (Noon ET), one that combines younger on-air talent, social-media interactivity, and a preproduced halftime show featuring a Knicks legend.

Viewers will also get green-screen segments during the game and interviews with fans. It’s a reimagined experience right down to the on-screen graphics. Look for it on MSG+ linear channel, MSGNetworks.com, and the MSG Networks Facebook page.

The hosts for this simulcast will be Cameron Smith and Monica McNutt, both broadcasters and former athletes, speaking from a more casual setting than the usual set. Breaking down the game’s most exciting plays will be Filayyyy (real name Jesse Jones), an Instagram star with his own distinctive way of singing the action. Also, Larry Marsach, known as Overtime Larry, will be in the arena talking to fans. The halftime show will be a special segment of Overtime program Lie Detector, with an appearance by Knicks veteran Larry Johnson.

Despite how it sounds, it’s not all about distractions, MSG promises. The game itself will still be the prime attraction, and fans will get every drive, layup, and three-pointer. But the event will be packaged in a way designed to appeal to younger viewers. Young people don’t want to watch the same shows that their parents watch, so why would they want their sports to look the same?

Explains Kevin Marotta, SVP, marketing and content strategy, MSG Networks, “It’s really taking this live game and going through it and saying, Okay, how do we do something right at the open of the broadcast for this Gen Z/Millennial fan? How do we sprinkle in stuff throughout the game that keeps their attention? How do we present it with graphics, with multiple things going on in the screen at the same time in a way that will resonate with that fan base?”

MSG Networks’ Kevin Marotta says the goal is to present the game in a way that will resonate with the Gen Z/Millennial fan.

This isn’t MSG’s first simulcast experiment. It created one with DraftKings at the start of last season that focused on fantasy gaming and offered live stat updates. Fantasy pros from DraftKings talked about the impact each player was having on potential lineups. The network has also experimented with a Knicks pregame show called Before the Game that’s available only on social platforms.

This time, it’s partnering with Overtime because it knows the digital-content company can create an authentic experience that resonates with fans. Overtime has created off-the-charts engagement with Gen Z and Millennials, Marotta says. It gets about 550 million views across all its platforms each month and served more than 19 million hours of video in 2018. That’s the audience MSG wants to connect with.

The NBA has also been trying to attract younger viewers: for example, creating AR experiences that let fans feel like they’re on the court. The similar strategy is a coincidence, but Marotta says that, as a partner with the NBA, his company will share any findings that could benefit the league or its teams.

To spread the word about this simulcast, MSG Networks is reaching out where its desired fans are: on social platforms. It’s releasing exclusive content through Instagram Stories and running heavy promotions on YouTube.

The simulcast will rely on the same arena cameras as the linear broadcast but has its own control room. All production work is done across the street from Madison Square Garden at 11 Penn Plaza. MSG Network chose to run this experiment on a night when it has only one event so it would have a free control room. It will distribute with MSG GO, its live-streaming and video-on-demand platform for computers and mobile devices, and use its streaming provider, Endeavor, to deliver to Facebook’s live-video-ingest workflow.

Come Monday morning, MSG will sift through the data to see what it can learn from the simulcast. It wants to know what pieces of content people engaged with most before, during, and after the game, and it wants to see what sort of impact partnering with a digital-first company like Overtime has in driving engagement. It also wants to learn whether the digital stream created lift for the linear broadcast and whether some viewers moved back and forth between both.

“We’re continuously trying to find ways to engage that next generation of fan and have them grow with MSG Networks,” Marotta says. “I think we’ll look at how this performed in doing that, and, if it performed really well, I think we’d want to do more of it.”