NBA Heads Into Playoffs With Free ‘Coffee Table’ iPad App


Some sports publishers see the iPad as a chance to start charging for apps or perhaps up the fees. Not so for the National Basketball Association, which is launching its first iPad app for free — at least for the playoffs. The NBA already has paid apps for iPhone that scale up for the iPad but NBA Game Time: Courtside was designed specifically for a different kind of device. Yes, the iPad is portable but NBA Digital expects it to be used more as a companion in a multi-screen environment than a substitute. NBA Digital SVP/GM Bryan Perez told paidContent: “This is going to be sitting on your desk or maybe your coffee table or your brief case. We decided, if this thing is going to be a home appliance, the most interesting thing we could do is create the ultimate home companion.”

The result is an app designed to provide the kind of rich, real-time data a TNT analyst sitting courtside might get during a game. This version is also designed specifically for the playoffs, which start April 19. Until then, users can track a tight playoff-spot race in the Western Conference with automatic updates to show how teams are ranked within each conference. The key features for the playoffs include:

— a front page that opens to a live playoff bracket that updates as games are played and serves as the navigation into the app.
— video highlights added during games.
— real-time in-game stats for teams and players.
— a live news ticker with news and video from and the official NBA Twitter feed.

Paid version coming: Don’t expect the app to be free next season. “It will likely be a paid app next season.” Perez said. “In the off season, we’re going to take a step back and look at the entire app platform and work on how we pull it all together.” The NBA has been aggressive with mobile apps, launching more than 100 apps across iPhone, BlackBerry and Android. NBA League Pass Mobile, the out-of-market live video package, runs $40, while NBA Game Time is $10.

By contrast, Major League Baseball, which starts its season Sunday, charges the same for its iPad app as its iPhone version of MLB At Bat 2010, $14.99, for real-time stats, in-game highlights, live audio play-by-play and a high-quality live game simulation designed for the app. MLB.TV subscribers can log in to watch live games (blackout rules still apply).

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