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The head of the NBA wants his games to look more like Twitch

Pro sports on TV looks the same way it looked 30 years ago, Adam Silver says. He thinks the internet can change that.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver onstage at Code Commerce 2017 Keith MacDonald
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

TV viewership is dropping across the board — including for live sports, which were supposed to be immune to shrinking ratings.

NBA boss Adam Silver has a solution: Make sports look more like video games.

Specifically, make them look like Twitch, Amazon’s platform for live gaming, which features a blizzard of live stats and a steady stream of chatter from gamers watching the event in real time.

“I think to a lot of older consumers, used to looking at sports, it might might look incredibly cluttered,” Silver said at the Code Commerce event in New York City. But it’s the kind of presentation that could appeal to younger viewers, he said.

Silver, whose league has made a point of embracing Twitter and other digital media outlets, argued that traditional TV broadcasts of NBA games and other pro sports have been essentially unchanged for the past 30 years. It’s “almost like a silent movie,” he said.

Right now, if Silver wants to see those kinds of changes in the U.S., he will have to hope that ESPN or Turner — which own most of the digital rights for his league — innovate in the way they present their games online.

But when those deals expire, he certainly expects Facebook, Amazon and other big tech companies to use innovation in the way they present his product as part of their offer. “The best sales pitch to us is how they’re going to find new ways to engage our fans in these telecasts,” he said.

Watch the full interview below.

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