As the Brooklyn Nets establish their franchise in the borough, regional sports network YES is experiencing ad sales gains and expects to grow its basketball ratings alongside the relocated NBA team.
Fifty-five years after Major League Baseball’s Dodgers bailed on Brooklyn for Los Angeles, the borough is embracing the squad as evidenced by the many folks walking around the Big Apple with the Nets’ new black and white colors and logo, which were created by rapper and mogul Jay-Z, a part owner in the club, who ushered in the new Barclays Center arena on Atlantic Avenue with a series of recent concerts.
The profile of the team, which had played in New Jersey for the past 35 years, is also on the rise across the country as evidenced by it being the subject of NBA TV’s docuseries The Association, the 17 contests that will air on national outlets TNT, ESPN and NBA TV during the 2012-13 season, and the cover story in the current issue of Sports Illustrated that features point guard Deron Williams under the headline, “Brooklyn Rising.”
As for YES -- the cable home of the New York Yankees, which will televise the Nets first home preseason game against the Washington Wizards on Oct. 15 – the RSN is already realizing the benefit of the Nets’ move across the Hudson River on Madison Avenue.
While senior vice president of ad sales Howard Levinson reports that YES is in the process of finalizing deals with other clients, Verizon Wireless, Verizon FiOS, Cadillac, Geico, Nissan and, not surprisingly, Barclays will all expand their presence on Nets’ game telecasts this season. Moreover, the New York State Lottery in now a part of YES’s account roster due to Nets move from New Jersey to New York.
The RSN is also upping the ante relative to providing enhanced coverage via additional cameras and the incorporation of fans’ social media tweets and FaceBook postings, as well as institutional Twitter feed -- @YESNetwork – throughout all of Nets programming. The social media vehicles will also afford behind-the-scenes, exclusive looks at Nets coverage, including glimpses into production meetings; other pre-game and studio show preparation; access to the RSN’s Stamford, Conn. studio; the state of the art Yankees Dynasty production truck, constructed by Game Creek Video; and to network announcers working courtside.
All this should result in an uptick with the Nielsens. “We expect the ratings to increase significantly this season, due to the improved roster and the excitement surrounding the move to Brooklyn,” said a network spokesman. During the 2011-12 NBA season, YES averaged a 0.4 rating in the New York DMA with its Nets’ telecasts.
On-air, Woody Freiman, YES vice president of production and programming, said Ian Eagle is returning as the Nets' principal play-by-play man and will coverbetween 50 and 55 games. Ryan Ruocco is adding some contest calls to his schedule. Veterans Mike Fratello and Jim Spanarkel are back as analysts.
Ed Delaney, senior vice president of broadcast operations and engineering, said YES has always been charged with treating “every Nets game as if it’s a playoff game...so that’s been our mantra. We’ve always been out there with a lot of hardware.”
That being said, Nets telecast this year will not only continue to include 10 cameras for home games, a super slo mo and robotics behind each basket and on the scoreboard, but will include the NBA debut of an improved YESMo, the ultra slow-mo, high-definition camera, for which the RSN won a 2011 Emmy for its deployment on Yankees telecasts.
“It shoots 1,000 frames a second. We’re going to provide some shots of the exteriors and the atmosphere in the building" explained Delaney. "But when we get into the real games, viewers are going to see definitive replays that show the [defender] just hitting the [shooter’s] arm as he’s releasing the ball.”
Longtime Nets coordinating producer Frank DiGraci, who noted the club’s improved on-court prospects has him “so fired up, it’s ridiculous,” said YESMo will be mounted on a number of different cameras, supplying YES viewers with varied vistas over the course of the season.
Road telecasts will also be enhanced with crews packing an additional camera to the ones typically used in visiting arenas. When the treks span the East River to Madison Square Garden, the home of the New York Knicks, DiGraci said YES will bring its full complement of cameras.
Prior to the Oct. 15 preseason telecast, YES will premier a special, which will be encored throughout the month, hosted by new Nets reporter Sarah Kustok. The one-hour show will include sit-downs with general manager Billy King, coach Avery Johnson and shooting guard Joe Johnson, plus features on Olympic gold medalist Williams and Mirza Teletovic, who had made the transition from Bosnia to Brooklyn. Additionally, Spanarkel will break down the Atlantic Division and there will be a segment on the Barclays Center.
YES’s first regular-season gamecast is slated for Nov. 3 against Toronto, but subscribers can watch pre- and post-game shows flanking the club’s Nov. 1 opener against the Knicks on TNT. That will also mark the first time viewers will get a look at new graphics package for openings and bumpers YES is creating in conjunction with the Nets and M Factor, the Los Angeles-based creative design firm that also produced new looks for the RSN’s Yankees coverage, beginning in 2010.
Creative design director Rick Deutschman last week shared some glimpses of the new graphics that center on animated depictions of players passing the ball around such Brooklyn landmarks as Coney Island, Grand Army Plaza, brownstones and the Atlantic Avenue subway stop, before joining together at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and then morphing into the Nets logo.
“In all my years of building graphics or watching sports, I have never seen painted characters like this. So this is very different,” said Deutschman, who said initially there were challenges in working around the black and white colors. “We’re introducing a couple of tones around it. We didn’t want it to look like black and white television.”
Although it will not feature a composition from Jay-Z, who also helped design the arena’s new “vault” suites area and 40/40 restaurant, YES is working on assembling Nets theme music that Freiman says will reflect "a gritty, urban feel.”
That will be in keeping with how he foresees the squad. “My vision is that is going to be a really blue-collar, lunch pail-type of team that New Yorkers are going to connect with,” said Freiman. “The Knicks could have this celebrity team with Carmelo [Anthony] and you’re going to have the Nets being this team that's going to fight for everything.”