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ESPN's inaugural NBA-Marvel Arena of Heroes broadcast was a bust, but the premise showed upside

  • "The Arena of Heroes broadcast seemed aimed at tapping Marvel fans who might not otherwise be the usual audience for something like a basketball game (nerds and jocks having long been positioned on opposite poles of the cultural spectrum)," says Jeva Lange of Monday's Golden State Warriors-New Orleans Pelicans broadcast on ESPN2, adding that though the idea is a peek into the future even though the first broadcast didn't work. "For the most part, all of the failings are pretty easy fixes," says Lange. "Future broadcasts should ditch the forced real world 'plot,' and the themed commentary shouldn't come at such an obvious expense to insightful analysis. Clean up the graphics. And the producers should better evaluate who their intended audience is: Was the broadcast meant to engage kids specifically, as its relative simplicity seemed to suggest? Could there be a way to make the commentary more advanced, so preexisting NBA fans could enjoy it more, too? Because one thing is for sure: Themed broadcasts aren't going away. Earlier this year, the NFL teamed with CBS and Nickelodeon to produce a SpongeBob-themed broadcast for kids, which was widely considered to be an enormous success. Disney is already making its next outing on Tuesday night, with a Star Wars-themed broadcast of the MLB game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees — this time as ESPN's main game feed. Even the NBA crossover on Monday seemed, in the end, to have gone over positively with many people watching at home; there appeared to be more pleasantly surprised reactions under the hashtag #ArenaOfHeroes than jokes."


    • Marvel-themed Warriors game was a test to see how much garbage Disney, ESPN can shovel at you: "In reality, this telecast wasn’t for anyone," says Drew Magary. "And I like Marvel movies, mind you. So do my kids. But did I NEED more Marvel crammed into a regular season NBA game, with poor (Angélique) Roché offering insight like, 'At the end of the day a superhero is about heart?' Did anyone? No.' There is a way to do this. In January, CBS and Viacom staged a simulcast of the Bears-Saints playoff game on Nickelodeon. Everyone loved that telecast, because my generation is addicted to cheap nostalgia but also because that broadcast made sense. It was on Nickelodeon and not on CBS proper, so it was explicitly for kids. The announcers took time to explain the rules of football to the audience, and the game presentation itself had a Nick theme but avoided all of the nauseating crossover garbage that ESPN2 shoveled my way. There were no Spongebob points awarded to Drew Brees for every touchdown pass. By contrast, I spent last night watching a failed update of NBA Jam. I couldn’t even keep track of the game itself because of the chyron demolition derby happening all over my TV. The entire affair felt like WORK: to me, to the crew, and even to players who were just trying to make it through this season alive and didn’t have time to tell you why Thanos is their favorite Marvel character."
    • If Arena of Heroes got some newbie basketball fans to watch, then it was worth it

    TOPICS: Marvel, ESPN, NBA