Twitter will stream live NBA games with a camera that tracks one player like a stalker

The NBA says fans can watch the action through a single-player, isolated camera view during 20 games it will livestream free on Twitter.

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Joan E. Solsman
3 min read
Player James Harden makes a funny face of surprise

Is James Harden of the Houston Rockets reacting to Twitter's unusual deal to stream live NBA games? Or to a basket he sank in 2015?

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Twitter will stream part of 20 NBA games this year, and each contest will feature a twist: The camera will focus on one player, who's been voted on by basketball fans. 

Watch this: Twitter CEO and NBA head talk latest tech partnership

In a tweet -- of course -- on Wednesday, Twitter, the NBA and Turner Sports said an isolated camera view will track a single player during the second half of games broadcast by AT&T's TNT. Fans will vote via Twitter for the player they want to see featured during the livestreams, which will include 2019's All-Star Game. The free streams will also feature exclusive commentators, who'll provide analysis for just the Twitter offering.

The livestreams will debut during the All-Star Game on Feb. 17.

The deal marks the first time NBA games will be streamed on Twitter. The streams, however, come with the odd limitations: Only the second half of games will be streamed, and your view of the action will be confined to the feed that focuses on the one player. Fans of opposing teams might try to prevail in the voting and have the camera fix on one of their players. We'll find out.

The limitations of Twitter's deal with the NBA reflect a broader tactic social media companies have adopted to complement television sports broadcasts rather than compete directly with networks like TNT. By streaming just the second half of the game, with single-player view, Twitter gives basketball fans a reason to also keep their eyes on the televised game.

Twitter and other tech firms face challenges when it comes to grabbing the attention of sports fans, who're notorious for splitting their attention between watching game broadcasts and posting commentary on social media. Twitter has previously partnered with other sports leagues, such as the NFL, MLB and NHL to livestream games. Facebook and Amazon have also streamed professional sporting events.

The agreement isn't the first time Twitter and a sports partner have created an opportunity for fans to influence the coverage of an event. Earlier this week, the PGA Tour expanded an agreement with the social network to stream 140 hours of its season. The deal includes a Fan Vote Fridays promotion that lets fans cast a ballot via Twitter to determine one of the two groups of golfers that'll be showcased in Friday streams.

The NBA announcement came as Twitter held a CES event about its partnerships. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is slated to appear on stage with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver later in the day. 

Twitter also detailed some product tweaks it's rolling out that're designed to prompt healthier conversations on the social network, highlight events better and make conversations easier to follow. 

Keith Coleman, Twitter's vice president of product, said the company is developing a "totally new experience" around events such as CES. 

When a big event causes an avalanche of tweets, with videos, photos, articles and conversations, it can be tough for Twitter users to keep track. "Following all that -- it's hard," Coleman said. He described a new design that feels like a big room, where content related to an event is collected together. "If it's a game," he said, "we want this to feel like a sports bar."

Twitter is also working on status symbols. These status markers will be different from the blue check mark some users have by their names; they'll serve to indicate where users are or what they're doing. They're throwbacks to the instant-messaging status posts of old. The idea is that when you tweet, for example,"WTF!111!" without any other context, your followers know it's because you're watching Game of Thrones. 

Twitter is also partnering with Fox Sports to have every goal from the Women's World Cup tournament this year, as well as daily live programming. 

CNET's Queenie Wong contributed to this report.

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First published Jan. 9, 10:10 a.m. PT
Updates, 12:24 p.m.: Adds background material; 1:13 p.m.: Includes PGA info.

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