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NBA TV Fans Get Courtside Access

Feb 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

For those who wonder what celebrities courtside at Knicks and Lakers games are talking about, NBA TV has an answer.

The league-owned cable channel this week plans to debut a new feature called “Courtside Confidential,” which will allow viewers to listen to Spike Lee’s and other celebrities’ take on the game-and other subjects-by hitting the Second Audio Program button on their remote control.

The feature is designed to play up the NBA’s status on the intersection of sports and showbiz and give viewers a sense of being an insider.

“Because of the nature of the NBA game and the different celebrities from different walks of life that follow our game, here’s an opportunity to get them involved in an NBA TV telecast and at the same time offer some unique programming that no one else is doing,” said Steve Herbst, VP and general manager of NBA TV. “It’s a completely different way to listen to commentary on an NBA game.”

The feature will make its official debut at this week’s New York Knicks-Miami Heat contest at Madison Square Garden. In addition to Mr. Lee, celebrities expected to be miked by NBA TV include Star Jones and her husband, Al Reynolds; actor Tom Cavanaugh (a Boston Celtics fan); and E! reality series stars Lisa and Brittny Gastineau (the wife and daughter of former New York Jets football star Mark Gastineau). Rick Kamla, host of “NBA Talk” on NBA TV, will moderate “Courtside Confidential.”

Mr. Herbst said NBA TV plans to mike two celebrities at a time and give each person six to 12 minutes of airtime. “The goal is to spread out the roster of guests throughout the entire game,” he said.

“Courtside Confidential” will be promoted during NBA TV telecasts, letting people know what they can hear if they flip over to SAP. “We’ll do it verbally; we’ll do it graphically,” Mr. Herbst said. “There may be time when we take the audio, if something’s really interesting, and put it on our main audio channel.”

NBA TV tested the SAP idea last month during a Philadelphia 76ers game. Miked up for that game were Darryl Dawkins, who told funny stories about his days as a player for the Sixers and other teams, and Nate Morris of Boyz II Men. The test also allowed the network to figure out technical issues, such as how to get in and out of commercial breaks on SAP.

NBA TV plans another SAP broadcast April 11, when the Phoenix Suns visit the Lakers in Los Angeles, and about one per month thereafter.

“We’re looking for more guests, more varied guests,” Mr. Herbst said. NBA TV is also seeking a sponsor for its SAP broadcast. “We’re getting close,” he said.

NBA TV is also gearing up for All-Star Weekend. The channel is the only outlet getting sit-down interviews with every all-star, legend and coach in Denver for the game, and calling the interview series “All-Star Confidential.”

The network also will have exclusive coverage of All-Star practices and the Legends Breakfast, which features some of the best NBA players of all time.