Just in Time for Playoffs, NBA Digital Launches iPad App

Most consumers will not get their hands on an iPad until the NBA playoffs begin, but NBA Digital is prepared. Available now in the iPad section of iTunes, NBA Digital’s new NBA Game Time: Courtside is an iPad-specific TV companion that allows fans to move beyond the play-by-play and data capabilities of NBA Digital’s current offerings to a customizable one-screen experience.

“We took information about the game a step further than we’ve ever done for NBA Digital,” says Michael Adamson, VP of sports, new products, for NBA Digital. “We now give you performance indicators, showing you things like how many points in the paint, how many points off the bench for each team tonight, and stats leaders in real time. The idea is not just to know what’s happening on the court but how they’re doing on the court.”

For the next few weeks, Game Time: Courtside will offer a live countdown clock to the start of the 2010 playoffs, complemented by a playoff bracket that updates daily based on current standings. Once the playoffs begin, the live bracket view will actively update during each game through the final. Tapping any matchup will produce game and player details.

Putting the Fans in the Game
During a game, users can view a full-court display that offers real-time statistics on shooting percentages and performance by zones on the court, team leaders, box scores, quarterly play-by-play, and a live shot chart. Tapping the picture of any player on the court or the bench will reveal up-to-date post-season statistics and career numbers.

NBA Digital's iPad application shows scoring percentages by zone, among other features.

Adamson’s favorite feature of the application is one of its most simple: the live news ticker. The ticker will be updated with news and video from NBA.com, plus updates from the Official NBA Twitter feed.

“We’re used to seeing tickers across sports channels, but this is the first we’ve seen that gives you access to the stories and Twitter feeds,” Adamson says. “When it pops up, you can tap it and see the full story, so it’s an interactive ticker. As simple and non-impressive as that sounds, it’s just fun.”

Additional follow-along features allow fans to see substitutions as they are made in the game; icons actually switch places on the court. Halftime and post-game video highlights are also available from every playoff matchup.

“Philosophically, this is where we’re heading with our digital products,” Adamson says. “We want to evolve so it’s not just about following the game and the team but knowing more about the game and the team. This large form factor of the iPad that’s not unlike a clipboard, it felt like the right place to finally begin to unveil that kind of feature set.”

Less Than Dotcom, More Than Mobile
NBA Digital began work on the iPad application in January, and the company‘s priority was to go beyond a mere translation of its successful mobile product to a bigger screen. NBA Game Time, the mobile product, works purely as a landscape-mode application.

“On a really small screen like that, it’s hard to rotate and have everything still be there,” Adamson says. “One of the harder things for the iPad was having to think about how the entire experience works in both portrait and landscape modes. It was challenging because it wasn’t just ‘let’s take Game Time and make it bigger.’ For us, it was really, what can we do that hasn’t been done yet?”

To attain that — in six weeks’ time — NBA Digital settled on adding performance information, while trying to find a middle ground between what fans find on NBA.com and what is currently available on mobile.

From a purely technical standpoint, however, writing a program for the iPad was on par with writing code for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

“It’s still the basic OS, and you’re still dealing with data feeds, video feeds, and how many assets and how much information you embed into the client versus have it go fetch off the Internet,” Adamson points out. “All of those were exactly the same.”

The most difficult part of programming for the iPad? Keeping it simple.

“It’s easy to overly geek out,” he says. “It’s easy to give you a page and a half of solid tables of stats, but that’s not engaging. We made this very consumable and easy enough to use that you can have it on your lap and engage with different features as much or as little as you want. It’s going to feel comfortable to have open while you watch the game.”

Free for All
The application is available now at no charge because NBA Digital wants consumers to try it out and provide feedback.

“We only intended it to be used during the post-season,” Adamson says. “This is not the same app that you’ll use this fall. It made more sense to get the fans involved, let them enjoy it, and then figure out what we want to change and what the product looks like come the fall.”

Changes may be made to the app in the next few weeks, as early as the conference finals, depending on the outcome of internal discussions.

Says Adamson, “I hope the fans get as much enjoyment out of using it as we did building it.”

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