NBA Finals broadcast to more than 200 countries, thanks to one 40-foot truck

It’s only staffed by about a dozen people and is strictly used during the all-star game and the finals, but the NBA world feed truck has the responsibility of delivering games to 215 countries in 50 languages around the world.

“We cannot accept anything but perfect,” says Steve Hellmuth, NBA executive vice-president of media operations and technology.

“We have these broadcasters with us, our partners in business, all year long. And this is the opportunity, this is the pinnacle of the entire season.”

The 40-foot world feed truck is packed with TVs and other equipment to put together one live broadcast that is shared by all of the NBA game providers around the world, including those in Brazil, China, France, Spain and Latin America — every country except the United States and Canada, where local broadcasters are used.

The goal is to make a generic telecast that everyone can use.

“We remove things — ESPN promos and advertisements, references to other programming that doesn’t make sense,” added Hellmuth. “We make this a generic, great, complete telecast so that even if you don’t cut to commercial, it still works.”

Parts of the broadcast — like highlight packages and graphics with player statistics — are built by members of the team on one side of the truck and then offered up to the director and producer on the other side of the truck, who then incorporate them into the global broadcast.

Hellmuth said the team then gives the dozens of international broadcasters a heads-up on what’s coming down the pike — whether it’s a Pascal Siakam highlight reel from last game or a board showing Fred VanVleet’s shooting percentage — so that all of the different foreign announcers can get ready to talk about the next part of the broadcast.

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“The truck producer has a line to the (international broadcast) producers so when we have a certain package or a replay ready… she can hit a button and talk to the producers here in the building and around the world about what’s coming up so they can anticipate it and be ready to speak about it on the telecast,” said Hellmuth. “That way, it feels more like it’s theirs.”

Hellmuth adds that there’s been a real appetite from audiences around the world to see more NBA basketball, especially when the number of international players in the league continues to grow.

“The audience certainly swells and grows during the NBA Finals,” said Hellmuth. “This is an NBA Finals that features a lot of international players, and those international players drive viewership, like Marc Gasol, like Pascal Siakam, like Serge Ibaka.”

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Hellmuth adds that most of the cameras the world feed truck uses are from television network ABC, but it also owns a few of its own cameras for the broadcasts.

He says the process has changed drastically from the time when his team would ship cassette tapes days later to other countries for a delayed broadcast.

This year, the NBA is even livestreaming the finals to fans in India for free on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

He now hopes to see the world feed truck used for more than just the all-star game and the NBA Finals.

“It really is an easy way to digest the NBA and it provides more opportunities, too, for announcers and others to tell stories in their telecast because they’re not necessarily bounded by the commercial formats of domestic broadcasters. It gives them more room,” Hellmuth says.

“I think we’re going to expand this world feed process to the regular season.”

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