NBA fan engagement has been the overriding theme during their 3-day visit to the gulf region of Abu Dhabi and while from the sports perspective NBA played their first-ever game in the region with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks and Trae Young’s Atlanta Hawks drawing in two nights for sold out crowd.
And as the expansion plans for NBA get back on track after the Pandemic the NBA Aisa and India Managing director Ramez Sheikh believes in the success of the Indian Premier League being able to make the sport of cricket a wonderful spectacle in India and catapulting the league into one of the most sought after ones globally, there is a lot, just not to learn, but to also even get inspired by.
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“The IPL has a done tremendous job to evolve and create a product that continues to be relevant, interesting and fun,” Ramez told News18 Sports on the sidelines of the NBA Experience in Abu Dhabi. “All sports, even the NBA in the States where it is very popular needs to continue to think about how they maintain that relevance and interest among the fans. We cannot take the fandom for granted.”
“I think that’s something we have to continue to learn and understand our fans and that is where IPL has done a tremendous job in creating a wonderful spectacle, changing the very nature of the game and that is something even in the US we are constantly thinking about our game, our product, or instance: last season we introduced a pay-in tournament within our calendar, we have created another tournament to really incentive the teams and allow fans to have yet another focal point during our season other than the all-star or post-season to focus on and those are the innovations that we are thinking about and in many cases inspired by the IPL.
The United States has been at the forefront of franchise-based leagues and there has been no one better at creating a product for the fans from a holistic fan engagement point of view. The IPL, which began fairly recently in comparison to the NBA, MLB, and NFL, took the franchise model from the US and has had a meteoric rise to being one of the most valuable sports leagues in the world in such a short span and Ramez emphasized that they have an eye on how IPL was able to create a sustainable product for its fan base. Of course, the challenge for NBA will be to draw new fans for a new sport in India.
“We are learning, the fun thing about my job is that the team that I am fortunate enough to lead is even in a market where NBA is new and fresh and we have a lot to do to create fans, to create an entertainment experience, we are learning a lot, we are trying to be thoughtful,” said Ramez replying to News18 Sports query.
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<h4>Looking to take Partnership with Viacom18 to the next stage</h4>
<p>Ramez, who was recently elevated to the role of managing director, was earlier general manager, of global content and media distribution and a big part of the multi-year partnership that NBA struck with Viacom18.</p>
<p>Entering the second year of partnership Ramez said that NBA is looking to take the partnership to the next level and believes NBA will be able to cater to the Indian audience better with their re-launched global app and also help Viacom18 with a more targeted approach in terms of amplifying basketball’s reach and fan engagement in the country</p>
<p>“Talking about how to build on the partnership, we are entering our 2nd year of partnership for the 76th season of NBA and Viacom18 relationship is very important to NBA and we do have significant coverage. I should also add we also have the G League, Women’s league, and WNBA on DD sports so that’s to your point about reach covers, really important, cumulatively we reached over 90 mil viewers this past season. This is significant for us and we are really happy about that and want to grow.”</p>
Viacom18 Sports, on Thursday, announced that JioCinema will live-stream FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and it might show select NBA Games for free. But the league’s Direct to Consumer product (app) – League Pass – would be behind a paywall. Ramez reiterated that there is a concentrated push to reach a wider audience in India and there is further scope for innovation with Viacom18 and its partners.
“More specifically with Viacom18, it’s continuing to innovate with them, understand their plans for Jio, Jio Cinema specifically, what they may want to do with cricket with the digital rights they have they have secured and collaborating with them to see how we can best deliver an outstanding sport and more specifically basketball and NBA experience to their fan base, but not only to the sports audience but to the entertainment audience as well,” said Ramez.
“As a part of how NBA is trying to learn is the recently re-launched direct consumer app, which is a significant step for us because it is all about the fans and we will now have a far higher degree of precision and ability to understand our fans and fans even within India, there is no one type of fan, fans are very different, region to region language to language and so what our platform will enable to us to do is to get to really understand who our fans are in India, there is no one monolithic fan, and we will able to personalize our content experiences on our app through those insights, but also provide those insights to our partners like Viacom18 and deliver far more targeted and personalized experience through content, promotion, and that is what we are excited about,” he added.
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