A decade after acquiring the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Ballmer is finally realizing his dream of building a bigger and better TV platform for his beloved basketball franchise.
The Clippers today launched Clipper Vision, a regional subscription service that offers 6 channel options and airs the majority of the team’s home and away games – more than 70 of its 84 regular season games. The service costs $199 per season and is available mostly in Southern California. The first live stream of the service will bow on Oct. 22 during an away game against the Sacramento Kings.
One of the six channel feeds provides the team with traditional linear cable TV coverage via Bali Sports. Two more are dedicated to coverage of Spanish-language and Korean-language live games – the Korean team with a studio in Seoul.
Another dish is an alternative view of the game — similar to ESPN’s new spin on “Monday Night Football” with Peyton and Eli Manning — dubbed “Ballervision,” which features NBA alumni Jamal Crawford, Baron Davis and others following it live. . The game opens. Ballmer, known for his courtside displays of his passion for the Clippers and basketball in general, joins in to weigh in regularly.
Ballmer, who acquired the team for $2 billion in 2014, brought the same level of energy to reporters on ClipperVision and Dry Run on Oct. 9’s “Ballervision” game telecast. Pierce gathered at the Davis-owned Mid-City LA studio space that night as the team played a preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Back in the 1990s and 2000s, when Ballmer was serving as Bill Gates’ No. 2 at Microsoft, he emphasized that he wanted to work on a multi-platform approach to NBA games. He views the slicing and dicing of Clips content as a form of “gamification” of the viewing experience. He also recognizes the importance of making Clippers games available to a younger generation of fans who don’t subscribe to cable.
“Now we can change the sports viewing experience. And what you see here is what I call version one,” Ballmer said on Oct. 9.
The other two feeds also reflect trends in sports, fandom and technology. CourtVision provides game coverage with enhanced real-time statistics and facts woven in as the game is viewed. MascotMode is similar to the TikTok approach to the game, with animations and emoji mixed in with key moments (ie flames coming out of a slam dunk ball).
ClipperVision builds on the team’s R&D over the past four years with the Clippers CourtVision service, which has been available to nearly 1,000 people in beta mode since 2018.
Ballmer admitted it would take a lot of hard work with the team’s existing regional sports partner Ballys (owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group) to secure the rights to provide ClipperVision feeds. One solution was to introduce regular Ballys food into the offering – making it a rare example of fans being able to buy the team’s online TV games on a la carte basis.
The Clippers will be the first to offer NBA-specific coverage in Spanish and Korean through the NBA’s League Pass subscription platform.
Bringing Clippers games to future streams — even at a price — is the key to engaging the next generation of fans, Ballmer asserted.
“We have a lot of young people who are cord-cutters or cord-nerves. They can’t be Clippers fans today,” Ballmer said. “If you’re lucky, you might go play for a year. But you can’t watch our games. And the idea of both having a more accessible product and being able to do new things in it, those were the things that got me fired up.
At the same time, Ballmer wasn’t ready to walk away from linear TV. Not only did the Clippers renew a multi-year deal with Ballys late last month, but this year the team also sought a local broadcast TV partner for the first time since 2009. A deal with KTL-TV Los Angeles to carry a total of 15 games this season. As the Clippers push into a broader direct-to-consumer platform, making the games available to local fans everywhere is a natural marketing move.
“We didn’t want to broadcast (online) television. And that took a lot of negotiation.” said Ballmer. “Now there’s a way to market our games that doesn’t just come from Bali Sports.”
Crawford and Davis emphasized that young NBA players are among those who feel the generational divide because they can’t easily watch Clippers games on smartphones or tablets. Crawford will be a regular anchor of Baller’s Vision Television; He has done similar work on the NBA’s HooperVision telecasts, which are featured on League Pass.
Baler Vision originates from different places at different times. Crawford, Davis, Matt Barnes and Quentin Richardson will be regulars but may not be in the same position. Crawford is also joining the studio team for NBA TNT and NBA TV this season.
“You don’t have to watch cable. You can do it on your phone at school or basketball practice or between school and commuting,” Crawford said. “And then you sit with Barron or Paul or whoever and you feel like you’re kicking it like a barbershop and watching the game with your guys. That’s a different experience. I think that’s the future. And it’s fitting that Steve and the Clippers are the first in the league. Because Steve is forward-thinking.” There is a different way to use the game.
The Spanish-language feed will be hosted by veteran NBA broadcaster Francisco X. Rivera with commentator Roger Valdiviso and guests in a Los Angeles studio. In Seoul, the team included analyst Yong-gum Jeong, former Korea Basketball League champion Tae-sul Kim, and basketball journalists Hyun-il Cho and Dae-bum Son.
The Clippers’ willingness to experiment and innovate with its TV offerings has been embraced by the NBA. The launch of ClipperVision comes on the heels of a major overhaul of the NBA app’s subscription streaming service.
“We’re seeing content offerings that show us how direct-to-consumer can integrate with the NBA fandom,” said Chris Beniarko, CEO of NBA Direct-to-Consumer.
“We encourage all our teams and broadcast partners to look for opportunities to deliver content to consumers in different ways and to use digital opportunities for personalization. Long term, we think technology and mobile devices will allow us to reinvent the experience of live gaming.
Ballmer told reporters on the Oct. 9 show that he wants the technology to be rolled out to the team to have cameras that would give fans a bird’s-eye view of the game from any player. He credits the NBA and its technology R&D with providing much of the “core technology” that powers ClipperVision. The group is working with Kiswe, a live video streaming provider.
“Now I’m thinking, how do you make this more like the Metaverse?” Ballmer said. “We mean software only. How do you integrate it and make people enjoy the game in more and new and exciting ways? And we will see where it goes and how fast. But now is the time to start.”
The team is committed to supporting and improving ClipperVision for the long term. Ballmer confirmed that he has no plans to pull the plug quickly if enrollment growth isn’t strong this NBA season, which begins for the Clippers on Oct. 20 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We’re in the end of the story. Period,” Ballmer said of ClipperVision’s performance review period.
“This is our life. We bring basketball games to people. If we don’t get it right the first time, guess what? You do it again. And you do it again, and you get better and better,” he said. year? Not enough time. We’ll have five years, 10 years, exactly. There are some things at Microsoft that, frankly, took us over 10 years to get right. And now it’s paying a lot of bills to a lot of shareholders. So patience is a virtue.
(Pictured: NBA alumni Baron Davis, Paul Pierce, Jamal Crawford and Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer mix it up for “BallerVision” during an Oct. 9 practice run.)