SBJ/October 24 - 30, 2005/Media

‘TNT Arena’ new centerpiece for network’s NBA coverage

Turner Broadcasting has built a new multimedia studio set called “TNT Arena,” made to look like a mini-basketball arena on top of a 60-story building. An arched roof over the anchor desk creates the arena feel, with a miniature 3-D skyline lurking in the background dubbed “NBC City.”

Production Design Group, out of New York, beat out several other design firms by presenting the arena concept.

“They had the best complete idea for a set,” said Lenny Daniels, senior vice president, coordinating director at TNT. “It wasn’t just pretty set pieces or a good-looking background, it was an idea.”

The set functions as a full 360-degree theater in the round, with a rotating desk completely surrounded by a backdrop. That will allow TNT’s anchors to be more physically active on camera and enable various looks and camera positions.

A demonstration area, made to look like an outside balcony, directly overlooks the miniature city. LCD screens pop up from the city like billboards and will be used to promote upcoming segments and possibly sponsors.

The new set is the centerpiece of a complete graphic overhaul for TNT’s NBA telecasts, which kick off Nov. 1.

Daniels said all “NBA on TNT” graphics will have a new and cohesive look this year that runs through every segment of the telecast. “Anything we have that touches the NBA will really have a consistent feel, and that’s really the first time we’ve been able to do that,” he said.

For about 20 games, TNT also will suspend a CableCam from the center scoreboard, used mostly during free throws or when players are coming on and off the court for time-outs. The camera, dubbed “TNT CourtView,” will be in a fixed position in terms of where it hangs over the court, but it can be raised or lowered throughout the game. Daniels said the network is negotiating with the NBA about how low it can go, but he said 15 feet is probably the lower limit.

BOBCATS ON LIMITED TV LOCALLY: The Charlotte Bobcats are locked into a multiyear agreement that won’t allow their games to be shown in the Charlotte area via direct broadcast satellite. That’s because the original deal that put the team-owned C-SET network on Time Warner Cable’s digital basic platform included a cable exclusivity clause. When C-SET was shuttered to get broader distribution for the Bobcats, putting games on Time Warner’s local news channel, the cable exclusivity carried over. Therefore DirecTV and Dish Network, which serve more than a quarter of the pay television subscribers in the U.S., are shut out.

All but a handful of major league teams have their games on satellite, the exception being the San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia pro teams on Comcast SportsNet (whose parent company owns both the major cable systems in the area and the 76ers and Flyers).

For the second-year Bobcats, who open a new arena this season, not having satellite means it will be that much harder to build a fan base. But the Bobcats’ chief marketing officer, Chris Weiller, says the team’s local exposure will be “increased exponentially” over last season when the club was only on digital cable, and the Bobcats also can seek deals with other cable operators in the Carolinas.

HBO DARES TO MARKET: Every year HBO Sports picks one documentary to throw sizable marketing support behind. This year, it’s going beyond even that for “Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.”

The network is making a grassroots push, staging screenings on college campuses and working with various nonprofit organizations to get a nationwide buzz going before the 118-minute documentary debuts Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. ET. This will be in addition to billboards in New York and Los Angeles, a print buy, radio spots in 11 major markets and promotion on HBO.

“It’s getting more marketing support than any documentary we’ve ever done,” said HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg.

Some of the grassroots activity includes an agreement with Sports Illustrated On Campus to stage screenings on 15 college campuses, mostly major state schools with strong women’s soccer programs. Six additional screenings will be held in soccer hotbed cities around the country, plus a gala premier in New York on Nov. 29. Women’s team members will appear at the screenings and participate in many of the activities.

Andy Bernstein can be reached at

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