The chance to watch Stephen Curry vs. Zion Williamson is enough of a draw for many NBA fans to an ESPN Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans, but Disney is ramping things up to try and draw in some less natural viewers for the May 3 game between the two teams: a full Marvel-themed broadcast.
We’ve seen networks try and draw in non-traditional viewerships for sporting events recently. Nickelodeon had a very popular broadcast of a CBS NFL playoff game last season. We’ve also seen gambling-orienting broadcasts, and other explorations of other angles for broadcasts.
Disney is set to marry two of its huge properties with this game: NBA broadcasts via ESPN, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We won’t just see superheroes flying around either. Apparently Marvel will incorporate an original story into the broadcast.
“The Disney sports-media giant on Monday, May 3, plans to air an “NBA Special Edition,” a game between the Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Pelicans that will weave elements from an original Marvel story and characters including Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Captain America, Black Widow and Doctor Strange into the live action,” according to Variety. “The broadcast will use 3-D virtual characters, animation packages and customized graphics to tell the tale of the Avengers watching the match in hopes of finding new heroes to help them fight an invading alien army.”
ESPN and Marvel partnering on an alternate NBA game feed shows the genius of Bob Iger. As streamers compete for subscribers, customers’ choices will come down to unique content offerings. Iger’s acquisitions of companies like Marvel create unparalleled content offerings.
— Alicia Jessop (@RulingSports) April 23, 2021
Steph and Zion are as close to Hawkeye and The Hulk as we have in the NBA right now. With how those two are playing, it’s an appropriate choice.
More on the broadcast via Variety:
“Sports fans who want to watch the regular game can see it on ESPN. But those who may be eager to try something new can watch ‘NBA Special Edition Presented by State Farm: Marvel’s Arena of Heroes’ on ESPN2, the streaming-video outlet ESPN Plus or ESPN Deportes. We’re eager for fans to experience this unique, innovative presentation that will pair Marvel and ESPN’s exceptional storytelling and production,” said Matt Kenny, ESPN’s vice president, programming and acquisitions, in a statement.
The ‘MarvelCast’ will be anchored by ESPN commentators Ryan Ruocco and Richard Jefferson, who will hold forth from a Marvel-themed studio at ESPN’s Bristol, CT headquarters. Angélique Roché, the host of a Marvel Entertainment podcast, will provide expert superhero analysis.
“The new ‘Marvel’s Arena of Heroes’ telecast will be the first of its kind to bring Marvel’s storytelling directly to the real-time experience of a NBA game, and we are excited for fans to be able to watch their favorite players through the lens of Marvel’s mightiest heroes,’ said Mike Pasciullo, vice president, marketing and communications, Marvel Entertainment, in a prepared statement.”
The kids-geared Nickelodeon broadcast was a pretty big hit. We’ll see if Marvel can pull off something similar for MCU fans that wouldn’t normally watch the NBA. Based on the success of those franchises, I wouldn’t bet against them.
The Pelicans and Warriors tip off in New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday, May 3.
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