In case you missed it, the 2017 NBL Blitz got underway on Thursday in Traralgon, country Victoria. However try as you may to watch the event, unless you were able to get to the games live, there was no chance you could watch any of the games.
After being able to tune in to the 'Blitz' across the past 4 years, NBL fans who have been accustomed to watching the most important warm-up event for the championship season through live streaming, have been left in the dark in 2017.
NBL fans were given this throw away line at the very end of the official Blitz release that announced the event would be held in the La Trobe Valley:
"Although the games won't be streamed, the NBL media team will be providing regular updates, photos, videos and interviews with players & coaches during the Blitz."
Nobody can discredit the NBL for the amazing work they do on social media - something that they have continued throughout the 2017 Blitz. Yet a 1-2 minute set of sideline shot highlights does not beat or replace the experience of watching a full game of basketball live. If you can't do that, then a full replay is the next best option. The fact is that neither is available from an NBL-sanctioned event is a slap in the face to basketball fans. Even more so when you consider it has been streamed live for the past 4 years.
The situation is made even more puzzling by the fact the NBL took the event to country Victoria.
While taking the event itself to a regional area to help grow the game is yet another great initiative by the league administrators, by not live streaming it though, it missed the mark with existing fans from the established markets. It also takes away from the build up to the season which tips-off on 5 October, just under a month away.
With the NBL having made significant improvements to the NBL TV product last season, coupled with subscribers crying out for some new and relevant live content (the last of which was back in July), the decision not to stream the Blitz is even more puzzling. It would have been an excellent way to get fans subscribing ahead of the season, especially with the majority of fans not being able to afford to attend the Blitz.
Over the past few years, even NBL teams themselves are realising the importance of keeping their fans engaged and in touch during the off-season through streaming their games live. A number of teams have already live streamed preseason games in 2017, including those against visiting college teams to great effect and response from fans and there will be more ahead of the season commencement.
Local telecommunication infrastructure may have been restrictive, and alternative solutions can be costly. And while cost is certainly something that would have played a role in the decision by the NBL to not live stream the event, the Kestelman-led revitalisation of the NBL has previously shown that money has not been an object. However the investment in NBL TV and the widespread awareness coverage would have drawn, surely the return on investment would have been worthwhile as the league continues its re-emergence?
For all the great things that Larry Kestelman and his team have done in picking up the NBL from the bottom of the scrap heap, failing to live stream the preseason event is a rare missed opportunity among many 'wins'. Hopefully it remains just a case of two steps forward, one step back.