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Into Thin Air: Mobility, the NBA and Fans in the Human Network

February 25, 2007 - 1 Comment

Last weekend I had the distinct labor of co-hosting the NBA All-Star Game for Cisco (methinks the blogger doth protest too disingenuously). While much of the weekend’s focus was on the physical pyrotechnics of the slam dunk, celebrity sightings, and very, very cool parties with tall people, there was another key angle to this pinnacle of sports and entertainment, the NBA Technology Summit. Arch entrepreneur and NBA Commissioner David Stern made it clear he was in touch with role the Internet and Mobility would be playing the future of the league. He noted that much of the world would be reaching the Internet, hence the NBA, from the cell phones going forward, not from PCs.When the Commissioner of the NBA recognizes his future is the mobile web, it’s not hard to see why. Sports fans are intensely involved with their favorite leagues and teams. I caught up to WNBA Superstar Lisa Leslie ( on the break and over a soda discussed her interest in the subject. She told me that basketball fans are”always on the new thing.” Toronto Raptor forward Chris Bosh led a discussion on why fans were always asking for personal information non him (like what cereal he ate and what video games he played) that was answered by Magic Johnson. Magic noted:”because kids want to be like you, they want immediate information so they can one up their friends by showing how much in touch they are with you.”It is clear that progressive sports organizations, rather than fight this move to mobility, are going to exploit it in building their brands. And plenty of people, including venture capitalists, financial analysts and the media were on hand to soak in the implications. For the NBA the focus was less on potential programming -there was a terse, uneventful Q&A on the no-show ESPN Mobile Device announced a year ago -but on the future role advertising could play in this mobile sports works. The top keynote of the morning was no less than Google CEO Eric Schmitt, who was on hand to share his views and take some pretty serious questions of the financial implications of this shift of the advertising model as well as payment models for NBA video. While much of the industry debates where the financial mode for Metro Mesh networks will come from, maybe some of it will come from the NBA?Although the summit was a strictly off the record event, David Stern was clear on one quotable area:”I can say is that in this wonderful age of wireless, of video on demand, on the device formally known as the cell phone, which is now a handheld device, at a time when the statistics are overwhelming that there will be soon two billion people on cell phones with the third generation, to have compelling content — which is our game — means that our game is going to be brought to fans in ways that not only that we couldn’t have anticipated, but we probably couldn’t have imagined, and that’s all good on a global scale.”

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  1. Wii style basketball?