NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is one of the more forward-thinking leaders of the four major sports, and he recently discussed something that I hope MLB’s own commissioner, Rob Manfred, paid close attention to.
Speaking at the Code Commerce conference in New York, Silver said something I think a lot of people believe, but not many like to admit: The current format of broadcasting is boring and outdated. He didn’t say that explicitly, but he implied it by saying the way we currently watch sports is akin to a “silent movie.” It used to be fine and acceptable, but eventually a new way of watching entertainment came along and suddenly the old way seems archaic.
The way sports broadcasting is now is the way it has been for decades. Game action in the background, maybe a score overlay with the occasional stats popping up, and the audio of a couple of broadcasters, usually pushing retirement age, talking about the action on screen. It’s worked for a long time, and it was revolutionary when just the idea of sports on your television was a big deal, but the internet has permanently altered the way we consume content.
Specifically, there are platforms like Twitch and YouTube which have people from all walks of life, all age groups, and all talent levels playing games and talking over them. Often with an overly of some kind or a live video of themselves as they play, with other information displayed along the side — such as time splits in a speed run, or donation amounts. It leads to very tight-knit communities from across the internet built around fans with similar interests.
If you’ve never watched a streamer on Twitch, this probably sounds stupid to you. Why clutter the screen with more junk? To you, the idea of having some kid screaming on top of a baseball game is pointless and adds nothing to the experience. But ask most kids or young adults (or even me, a 27-year-old) about watching Twitch streams, and they probably don’t even notice the overlay…