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Turner Sports to offer tech package for NBA game

By Ben Klayman

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Turner Sports will offer a package of technologies during an NBA game on Thursday, including Twitter, multi-camera coverage fed online and a live streamed chat in a move to attract fans watching on TV, the Internet and cellphones.

Turner Sports will integrate TNT, NBA TV and NBA.com under the plan, while using TNT's NBA studio show hosts to call a Miami Heat-Chicago Bulls game, said David Levy, president of Turner Sports, which is owned by Time Warner Inc.

"This is not a one-time-only," he said in a telephone interview.

"Our consumer may not be near a television set, so we want to have them have access to what's happening whether it be on Twitter or broadband. It's about engagement with all of our different platforms."

Turner Sports, which a year ago began managing the NBA's digital assets -- NBA TV, NBA.com, WNBA.com and more -- has taken similar approaches in covering NASCAR races, the PGA Championships last year and the NBA All-Star game last month. But it has never gone as far as it will on Thursday.

During the NBA All-Star weekend in February, NBA Digital set an NBA.com record for video streams at more than 17 million, up 20 percent from last year.

On Thursday, Turner Sports will have TNT NBA Thursday studio hosts Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith calling the game at the United Center in Chicago. Fans also will be able to follow the action via mobile phone applications.

At the same time, Smith will provide running commentary on the game via Twitter, the first time a TNT NBA game analyst has used the short-message service during the action, the company said. Other analysts also will send Twitter messages, which will be aggregated at the NBA Tweet channel, www.nba.com.tweetmixx/.

There will be a live streamed chat on NBA.com, where analyst Kevin McHale will take questions from fans via Facebook and Twitter following halftime, the company said.

Fans also can access an interactive application on NBA.com that will offer four camera angles at one time: a camera fixed on the announcers even during commercial breaks, two cameras focused on players the fans collectively pick and a robot camera mounted above both backboards, the company said.

"We know that social networking is a big part of the sports world," Levy said. "One of the reasons why I think ratings today are up in sports ... has a lot to do with social networking. People are talking about these games more."

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; editing by Andre Grenon)