NBA’s foray into Facebook Live excites fans – but only in India

On Sunday, the Golden State Warriors beat the Sacramento Kings in the first regular-season NBA game to be streamed on Facebook Live.

Although other pre-season and exhibition games have been brought to the platform in the past, this marks the first time that a top class game has come to the social network’s fledgling live-streaming platform, and shows how important it could become in the future.

As CNET reports, the game was broadcast only to fans in India, but the ability to broadcast it at all on Facebook is a first to be celebrated.

As part of the Sacramento Kings’ ‘Bollywood Night’, the pre-match entertainment took on a Bollywood theme – so streaming live to fans in India must have seemed like the logical digital innovation to add to the occasion.

Although it marks a watershed moment in the evolution of live streaming sporting events, it also shows the limitations of the platform at present. The reason this is so significant is not because of the technology involved or anything to do with sport as a whole breaking new ground. We already know that live sporting events can be broadcast live through the medium of Facebook and even Twitter. The reason it is significant is because such a huge event in a massive sports league has been able to be broadcast in such a fashion.

But, of course, it was only broadcast in India, as the rights to the event in other countries are currently held by other broadcasters. And, for the moment at least, the rights to the big leagues are taken up by the broadcasters with the most money. Though it’s not simply a question of money, the TV channels who do broadcast these events do so from years of experience in broadcasting: they can provide a smooth and polished experience for the viewer, and place the league’s product in its best possible light. Something that may, at present, be lacking on Facebook, especially if viewed on an unloved phone with a cracked screen, an old computer monitor with a pixel density barely fit to watch YouTube clips, or an internet connection that drops out every few minutes.

The fact that ratings seem to be down across the board for many sports will, perhaps, force a rethink in how sport is presented to the public, and Facebook streams like this one may become more commonplace. For now, though, it’s a novelty – but that’s why it’s so exciting!

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Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 193 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and a regular contributor to Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan91

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