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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Complex gives NBA high-tech edge

By Andrew Gross
(Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News

SECAUCUS, N.J. — Steve Herbst stood in the empty auxiliary newsroom at the NBA Entertainment complex, explaining this year's new concept for NBA.com TV's look-in game updates, his back to two walls crammed with computer stations.

It is a remarkably down-to-earth idea in a high-tech building that consolidates all of NBAE's production needs.

NBA.com TV is in its third season, but this is the first season of highlights every 15 minutes. That night's anchor — whether Ron Burke, Carlos Diaz, Dei Lynam, Bruce Beck or Mark Morgan — will wander around the room, stop at a computer, tap the editor or production assistant manning the terminal and ask what's going on in a particular game.

The station, the first full-time network created by a sports league, is available to about 10 million households through DirecTV satellite and to an additional 7 million homes through digital cable iN DEMAND.

"NBA.com TV is the ultimate spot for an NBA fan, but it's also a place where you'll see something you wouldn't normally see," said Herbst, the NBA's vice president for programming and NBA.com TV. "Part of that was to take the highlights out of the big, polished studio so maybe things wouldn't be as polished."

Still, there is little left to chance at the NBAE studio, which opened in 1991 at a cost of about $100 million nine years after Manhattan-based NBAE was created by the league.

It is where "NBA Inside Stuff" is taped for NBC Sports. Earlier in the day Ahmad Rashad and Summer Sanders welcomed teenage rapper Lil' Bow Wow onto the set for a live performance with an audience of about 200 local youths.

Four shows NBAE produces for Fox Sports Net, ESPN and ESPN Classic are also taped there. The NBA draft lottery is conducted there, as is the WNBA draft.

The NBA also films its public service announcements and commercials at the facility.

"It was difficult to pull off if we were going someplace else," Herbst said. "The ability to have everything under one roof is essential to getting it done."

"I think the thing is, nobody does the NBA like the NBA," said Rashad, who serves as executive producer of the youth-oriented NBA Inside Stuff and is responsible for directing much of the show's content. "We've got a library of footage that's just vast. So many aspects of the NBA are covered in this building that it just makes it very cool."

The auxiliary newsroom overlooks the main studio, but finding the NBA library takes some wandering through the halls.

Actually, there is an upstairs-downstairs split to the archival repository. Downstairs, each game is cataloged play-by-play in about 100 categories and sub-categories through SISCOM, a computer program designed specifically for NBAE.

"Last year, it would take eight hours to catalog a game," said Matt Beeney, who is the NBAE coordinator of retrieval and tape footage. "This year, it's game time plus 45 minutes."

Meanwhile, upstairs is the actual library with shelves and shelves of game tape. The on-site library contains every game dating back to 1997. A nearby off-site facility houses the rest of the collection — every game since the mid-1970s and an incomplete collection that starts with games from 1952.

Most of that footage is very low-tech. Accessing it through the multiple cross-references is the high-tech part.