The NBA is currently in a state of limbo — caught between the transition from the Stern regime to the Silver era, the increased exposure of tanking and competitive issues (the Charlotte Bobcats setting the worst win-loss percentage two seasons ago and two teams losing 26+ straight games in the past three seasons). Add to this the current snowballing effect of “analytics” into the front office hierarchy and it’s clear that the NBA has a lot of things on its plate.
Suggestions to attack these issues are far and wide — from re-inventing the wheel (almost literally), to fixing the playoff positioning (both as a measure of equalizing the league and helping bad teams get better). The good thing is that they are trying to fix it.
Although PBA, the oldest “professional” basketball league in Asia and second oldest professional basketball league next to the NBA, is not there yet, they are close. Fans are getting more involved, writers are getting smarter and fancier with their articles and there’s a growing sentiment that the PBA as a basketball league is stagnating. The respected Chito Trinidad put it rather succinctly:
Despite all the changes the league has undertaken over the years – much of which is not exactly for the better, there are still millions of us Filipinos who love the PBA with a passion.
Many of us still look forward to watching the PBA games even in its ‘watered down’ version, all because it has become part of the ‘way of life’ of Filipino basketball fans for the last four decades.
I for one can vouch for this – I’ve never been able to get into a good momentum in terms of watching and covering the PBA. Between the inconsistent date/time of airing, the inconvenient time slots, a middling website (seriously, we’re living in the Internet Age!) and the countless other problems, both major (the constant hoola-boo with the Gilas Pilipinas and the PBA) and minor (non-airing of Sunday games), it’s a pretty frustrating experience.
Like it’s American counterpart, the limbo the PBA is in is an interconnected web that’s held by a few central threads that which if broken (or in this case, fixed) can mean complete and total collapse. I’ll try to tackle some of them here. Note, like most articles of this nature, this is NOT a solutions manual nor is it an evangelical, righteous proclamation. Rather, it’s meant to open the floor for discussion and to open a dialogue for everyone involved.
The central problem that is currently plaguing the PBA right now is coverage – or lack of it. Take a gander at the schedule on their website and tell me you’ll know exactly where you want to watch it. Do you know how to buy tickets for the game? Do you know where it will be aired? What channel it will be aired? What time will the live telecast and the replay happen?
No? Of course you won’t. Their schedule board is just an image (one that’s poorly aligned, look at the broken lines). In fact, clicking at the “PBA All-Star Game” image only opens the image. It won’t re-direct you to a tag (PBA All-Star?) or to an article detailing the All-Star game, not even re-directing to an “All-Star” page!
This is simply inexcusable, especially in this day and age when online presence can mean so much for a company.
That’s just for the internet coverage.
What about their actual telecasts of the game?
Here is an image of the PBA’s supposed TV coverage. Disregarding the botched Sunday games this week, I for one can vouch that I’ve been duped countless times by this schedule. I check TV5 at those specific times and there are times when it’s not true. I was left following the game through Twitter imagining every layup and block that people covering the event live are tweeting. This happened so many times that I’ve given up entirely on watching PBA games live. I only watch them live when my brother watches them. Otherwise, I scour the net for some
The guys over at From The Stands dedicated a good portion of their time discussing this very issue on TV coverage. I suggest you listen to them (and maybe put them on your RSS feed).
— Carlos Araneta (@chuck_araneta) March 28, 2014
As user @alexmallarifp said: “Tapusin muna ang network wars”. That’s close to impossible. The NBA’s solution to this (from what I understand) is that instead of marketing the league as a whole, they market teams — Time Warner Cable holds all the rights for all Lakers’ telecast in the California area (That’s what I think is happening). In the same vein, Fox Sports New Orleans covers the New Orleans Pelicans for the greater Louisiana area. For international fans, the NBA has the NBA League Pass, a paid service that allows you to view NBA games anytime, anywhere (provided you have a good internet connection).
The PBA clearly can’t fix the TV coverage like that. Since teams aren’t divided by geography, it’s impossible to follow the NBA’s model. Can the PBA, instead, use a day-to-day split (TV5 for Wednesdays and Saturdays, ABS-CBN Sports and Action on Sundays, GMA on Fridays?) or maybe use a revised geographic split (TV5 for Regions I,II,III,IV and parts of NCR, etc…)?
Will both of these be actually good solutions? I don’t exactly know. I can actually live with the PBA being covered by just one network. Whether that’s TV5, ABS-CBN, GMA or some other network, I don’t really care (personally. But if we do consider Kuya Chuck’s tweet, then this has to be considered). What matters to me, more than anything is: scheduling and internet coverage.
In terms of scheduling, I don’t know where people are at with this but my personal solution is to schedule the games at a later time. The NBA has games scheduled anywhere between 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (sometimes, there are afternoon games on weekends). The current setup of the PBA on weekends does not allow the vast majority of workers (who are scheduled to work anywhere between 8 to 6) to travel from where they work to the Arenas. This is especially true if you consider MoA games (for me) or Araneta games (for fans who live in the South). They should conduct an NCR-wide survey to ask fans who want to watch the games live:
- Where they live (just check boxes of big cities like Pasig, Quezon, Mandaluyong, Pasay, etc…)
- How long is their commute from work to the following arenas on a regular day (just approximate and list all relevant arenas i.e. Araneta and Mal of Asia).
- How long is there commute from the arena to their home (again, approximate and list all relevant arenas).
- What time do they prefer to at least get home.
This way, the league has a set of data to work with. Create an algorithm (the NBA does this) that creates the optimal scheduling that takes all of this into consideration plus logistic issues, pricing schemes and seating capacity.
Also, how hard is it really to affix links to places where we can buy tickets? And how hard is it really to hire a bunch of people to manage the website? And, do you not understand how important a company’s web presence is? You see all these big companies interacting with their followers through Facebook, Twitter and Google+. All of this ties up together to provide a coherent, intuitive and easy way for fans to follow the leagues through multiple online outlets. I’m not even going to get into providing an online portal where PBA fans ANYWHERE can watch (and there are PBA fans everywhere, not just in the NCR region or in the Philippines but globally).
The other issue, I think, is one that tackles how the PBA operates. Currently, it has three conferences: a conference where only eligible Filipinos can play (whether by blood or by birth, I think?), another conference that allows all teams to recruit one player without restrictions and another conference that allows all teams to recruit one player with restrictions. Confusing right?
Some of us have questioned the need for three conferences. I am one of those people. Also, what is up with all these Gilas Pilipinas hoola-boo? Each year, there’s something different going on with the league and the Gilas team. I remember a few years back, Gilas was actually part of the PBA as a guest team. Then this conference, they apparently moved the timetable of the Commissioner’s Cup to give way to for Gilas’ practice. It’s all a bit confusing, especially for anyone that’s trying to like the PBA or trying get into it again (like me).
All of this is even made more relevant with 5~6 teams vying to get into the league, increasing the number of participants and tightening the schedule enough to force a complete re-structure.
The best solution I have? (Note: In this scenario, I’m assuming the league is now a 14 team league).
Make it one giant season (instead of one season that’s divided into three conferences). The league is divided into two divisions. You play your division three times and teams on the other divisions twice. In total, each team will play 32 games (not counting the playoffs) – that’s fewer games than how many games a regular 3 conference season will have (10 games fewer for each team). 32 games for 14 teams will mean 224 games that need to be scheduled. Each week, there will be about seven games played (1 on Wednesday, two on Fridays,Saturdays and Sundays). This means a 224-game season is about 5 months worth of games. Assuming a similar playoff format as today (which means a maximum of about 33 games or about a month and a half of playoff action), that brings one PBA season to a total of about 7.5 months worth of games. Schedule those games between October to May (prior to the start of the UAAP season and a few months before the start of FIBA competitions). Add in a big offseason schedule for “drafts”, “trades” and what not and what you get is a more cohesive schedule for a PBA fan.
This is mostly, a “throw your ideas on a wall” kinda of a thing. I do not have the credentials to ask important people what their ideas are nor can I catch the league-wide repercussions of a change this drastic (the PBA has always been a three-conference league). But the PBA seriously needs to fix its scheduling. Whether that’s by re-structuring the 3-conferences or not is not my concern, what I want are changes that make the PBA a better viewing experience.
Have any ideas? Hit us up in the comments.