CBS Sports Takes Beyond the Box Score College Hoops Show to CBS For First Time
Moving from CBS Sports Network, the show goes bigger and adds bells and whistles
CBS Sports will be airing another Beyond the Box Score broadcast on Feb. 3, but, in the college-basketball program’s third year, the company wanted to go bigger and reach a wider audience, so the analytics-focused presentation of Wichita State at Memphis will be on the CBS network for the first time.
When CBS Sports launched Beyond the Box Score three years ago, it featured just one game. But, two years ago, two games were featured: Richmond at George Mason and Loyola Marymount at BYU.
“Last year, it wasn’t technically a Beyond the Box Score broadcast [that CBS Sports did],” says Kimani Morales, a co-producer of the broadcast. “We did more of a collaboration with ShotQuality, which is one of the companies we’re using on Saturday as well. We didn’t call that one Beyond the Box Score, but it had some of the same premise to it.”
For the return of Beyond the Box Score this month, CBS Sports wanted to do something special. “This is the first time we’re getting to do it on broadcast,” he says. “We’re excited about that.”
The premise behind Beyond the Box Score, essentially, is that college basketball teams have many advanced statistics that haven’t been used in CBS Sports broadcasts, he notes. “We’re trying to bring what the schools are using in terms of numbers to evaluate their own players, to scout opposition [and more].
“We’re trying to bring that to the viewer,” he continues. “We want to make the broadcast as authentic to what’s going on behind the curtain as possible.”
Beyond the Box Score has been well-received by CBS Sports execs, Morales says. “They’ve been really supportive. I think the biggest thing that has helped us is just looking at the past games and the work we did. We’re proud of it. It was received well, and there was an appetite for more.”
When his team pitched Beyond the Box Score for this year, “we wanted to do it a little bit bigger than it was,” he recalls. “I think, each year we pitch it, it gets a little bit easier because you have that foundation of ‘they’ve [done] that before’ and there’s more trust.”
‘A Few More Bells and Whistles’
Beyond the Box Score already offered viewers in-game segments, graphics, and analysis, highlighting how sports broadcasts use advanced statistics to gain an edge, thanks to technology Morales describes as cutting-edge.
Production elements previously included a constantly updating points-per-possession tracker as well as segments on scouting reports, player ratings, and lineup optimization. Specially crafted graphics packages provided insight into team and player performance beyond conventional stats.
This time, says Morales, “we wanted to have a few more bells and whistles, to have it be seen by more eyeballs, and, hopefully, to get a good reception and to keep growing this sort of broadcast.”
CBS Sports is blending advanced stats and some new technology, he adds. In the effort, the company has again turned to several tech companies.
The biggest partnership is probably with Second Spectrum. “They can augment our play-by-play camera to give us an AR feed during the game,” Morales notes. “They have this player-tracking technology that they can use in any NBA arena. They have their own cameras already installed in NBA arenas, so they can track [activity] on the court live and give you very real-time data.
“Some of their stuff,” he continues, “we’re going to use live during the game. We’ll have live player tracking: you’ll be able to identify who has the ball at all times. They’ll have the name next to the player who has the ball. From time to time, you’ll see how many points that player has. [It will] toggle between their name and their stats [as of game day].”
Morales opines that such elements “just make the experience a little more user-friendly for the viewer.”
Second Spectrum is also making it possible to offer “fun, creative” elements to the game, he adds: “They have everything set up so, when a guy makes a three-pointer, we have a replay where we can show a kind of smoke trail and all sorts of creative stuff that’ll go with that.”
CBS Sports will also have replays showing exclusive data, he says, noting that the technology can show the distance that the closest defender is to a shot. “We’ll have that on some replays. You’ll see a shot taken with a guy who’s wide open for three [points], and you’ll immediately be able to see on a replay that person is 10 ft. or 12 ft. away.”
Acknowledging the challenge of putting the data in context, Morales says, “We’ll have context explaining why it’s important to get closer to those shooters to close out and that [that] lowers the three-point percentage for the team shooting.”
CBS Sports had worked with ShotQuality before and is partnering with that company again to offer probability on shots’ going in. ShotQuality deploys the technology on every shot in every Division 1 game, according to Morales.
The technology produces a value for each possession. “For example,” he explains, “if a really good three-point shooter is wide open and gets a nice pass and has an easy catch-and-shoot three-pointer, that might [have a] 45% chance of going in. If someone who is not a good three-point shooter has a contested shot and has to dribble a couple times before they shoot, that might have a 20% chance of going in.”
First Effort With Second Spectrum
This year marks the first time in which CBS Sports is partnering with Second Spectrum, which usually works with NBA games and not college basketball, according to Morales. “I believe we had some preliminary talks with them, either last year or a couple of years ago.
“The challenge with them,” he continues, “has always just been a schedule thing. It needs to be an NBA arena because that’s where they have all their cameras installed. CBS has a handful of games in NBA arenas during the college basketball season. Getting that to sync up has finally happened this year.”
Some Elements Are Dropped
Although CBS Sports has added new bells and whistles, Morales says, “we are doing less of what we did before the games. It’s a different philosophy. We have the same amount of tools that we had before, but we have to pick our spots a little bit more.”
In the past, analytics and numbers drove the Beyond the Box Score broadcast. “We would have a specific segment dedicated to one specific [topic],” he recalls. “We might talk about lineup optimization during an entire segment and base our conversation on that.”
However, he adds, “the philosophy this year on CBS is a little more ‘we’re going to cover the game like we normally cover it.’ We’re going to use some of the new technology and some of the analytics to tell the story that we would normally tell anyway and just try to expose the viewer to different types of stats and different types of ways to have the same discussions.”
Also gone this year are the featured in-game segments, Morales says. “We’re letting the game kind of flow naturally, the way that we would [with] any other broadcast.”
Genius Sports provides the statistical data for all CBS Sports college basketball games, and another CBS Sports partner, SMT, takes that data and fits it to CBS Sports graphics so that it can be read accurately and quickly.
Previously, SMT technology was used to show virtual shot charts during the game. “That is probably the one thing that we do not have anymore,” Morales says. “We’re not using SMT for shot charts. We’re using Mixon Digital for the shot-chart element instead.”
Calling the Action
John Hollinger, John Sadick, and Chris Walker were the announcers for the two Beyond the Box Score games in 2022. Hollinger is back for 2024 but will be joined Spero Dedes and Clark Kellogg.
Morales is again co-producing with James Peretzman: “We came up with the idea for Beyond the Box Score together. He handles more of the functionality of the videotape and the graphics [keeps] an eye on that part of things to make sure that it’s all running smoothly. He’s kind of the brains of the operation.”
Nothing new is planned for Beyond the Box Score right now, Morales says. “To get to this point where we’re doing it on broadcast is a huge win for us. All of our energy and focus has been on making this game run as smoothly as possible and doing everything we can to make that happen.
“I’m sure, after the game’s over,” he continues, “we’ll turn the page and have those discussions about what’s next.”