Coming into this season, things could not have been better for the D-League. Popularity is at an all-time high, teams are being added every season, and they were slowly but surly shedding the stigma surrounding the D-League. The season tipoff was suppose to be a triumphant start to another successful D-League year, but instead it ended chaos and frustration.
The league used to broadcast every game live on YouTube and would then archive it on the D-League YouTube page, a very easy and user friendly system that seemed to work for everyone involved. But yesterday, without warning, the League announced that instead of being featured on YouTube, the games would be broadcasted via Facebook Live, Facebook’s latest attempt to diversify the platform as more than just a place to stalk former significant others and post fictitious, politically charged memes.
Earlier in the day, rumors started popping up on Twitter that the league was moving away from YouTube in lieu of Facebook Live. Fans and people that cover the league started to scramble for answers, as all previous signs pointed to things staying on YouTube. The team’s themselves were still telling everyone that the games would be broadcasted on YouTube up until the D-League’s official announcement, confirming reports just hours before tipoff.
Here's a press release just from yesterday from the Salt Lake City Stars mentioning games would be on YouTube. pic.twitter.com/UyatsRwH8s— Adam Johnson (@AdamJNBA) November 11, 2016
While everyone wasn't pleased with the change or how the league handled the announcement, fans were ready and waiting to watch these games. That is when the problems started to arise. Not only did almost every broadcast experienced significant problems with both audio and video, but the way the broadcast itself looked was like that of a frustrated streamer on Twitch. People took to Twitter to air their frustrations.
The reactions to the @nbadleague switching to Facebook live over YouTube have all been negative. Audio/visual not great, score missing, etc— Chris Reichert (@Chris_Reichert) November 12, 2016
Attempted to rewatch WCB vs LIN to pull highlights. The feed is so atrocious that Im not even going to bother. So grainy, low quality— Nicholas LeTourneau (@nick_lt) November 12, 2016
Just tuned into the Long Island/WIndy City game and there's absolutely no audio. Just a static buzzing noise. @nbadleague.— Ridiculous Upside (@RidicUpside) November 12, 2016
In addition to slow feeds featuring no audio, no video, or a weird mix of the two; Facebook Live’s worst feature (in the opinion of someone that uses these feeds to pull highlights for analysis) was a string of floating emojis across the screen as people liked or commented on the stream.
If it ain’t broke, don't fix it D-League. Why they decided to do this move without announcing it ahead of time or practicing it in the preseason with the few games that were played is beyond my pay grade. It is literally the worst thing it could’ve done ahead of a season, especially while launching two new franchises near two of the largest markets in the NBA.
They have worked so hard to shed the mid-2000’s stigma that it was a place for washed local players that didn't make it big, to shoot themselves in the foot like this is almost inexcusable from a business standpoint. Instead of creating new and loyal fans for the Windy City Bulls and Long Island Nets, it further reinforced the negative and outdated D-League stigma.
While it looks like this move was out of the blue, and it was, D-League Digest reported that former D-League President Dan Reed recently moved over to a position at Facebook.
If I was a betting man, I’d wager that when Reed moved over to Facebook, the company saw an opportunity to snag the broadcast rights of one of the hottest up and coming leagues around. YouTube doesn’t pay out to people and the D-League feeds weren't inundated with advertisements. If Facebook made a big enough offer, it shouldn't be too surprising to see the D-League jump at the chance to add another stream of revenue.
But if it comes out that the D-League did this just for kicks or just to switch it up as opposed to adding another revenue stream, than it’ll be almost unforgivable. I hope for the sake of the league they fix this mess sooner than later. The games are unwatchable and it won't be long until people just stop tuning in altogether.