Choose Your Own Commentator

The next logical step for ramping up our media consumption of pop culture/memes/entertainment is for us to pick which commentators we want to listen to for our event streams.

Right now we’re locked into whoever — god knows the criteria by which they’re chosen — is under contract to be doing commentary. Sometimes you get real winners like Walt Clyde Frazier or Stephen Colbert or the Inside the NBA crew. Other times can be…horrific. Like Mark Jackson.

Who can forget having to listen to years of Bill Walton crush our will to have the ability to hear during the NBA playoffs?

What if you didn’t have to deal with the Boogermobile on Monday Night Football?

Talk to a lot of basketball fans. They’ll tell you that sometimes the best feeds to watch are the ones that don’t cut to commentary or entertainment during halftime and timeouts. They keep the microphones and cameras on the court. There’s not that much direct audio, but you just see so much meta context during the game breaks and you feel like you’re really getting a deeper experience.

The Perfect Time

Streaming on Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, etc. is so widespread right now. It’s part of peoples’ normal routines to the point where they don’t even subscribe to cable, or if they do, they may not even use their cable some days.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Hulu are packed with more content than most people could ever consume already.

Live-tweeting political and sporting events is pretty common, and the experience of consuming these things at home with large TVs and nice audio setups and headphones pretty much outclasses any other experience (sometimes even being at the actual event). For your typical sports fan, you’d probably have a better idea of what was happening in the game at this point while watching on TV than going to the game. So much context is lost unless you know something well enough to pick up on the details on your own, or with your group of like-minded companions.


Content creators have been experimenting with demographics, being inclusive or exclusive to them. You get embarrassments like terrible pop country acts or silly kid pop music at NBA games, or milquetoast acts like Coldplay at the Superbowl Halftime Show.

Why would it not make sense to be able to tune in to the event of the year but listening to the people you want to hear instead of what the network’s decided for you to hear? If you loathe, say, Jason Witten’s knuckle dragging commentary, wouldn’t you like to be able to tune in to another commentator team’s stream?

What if we could collectively bid on Tony Romo to perform an audiostream for the winning sporting event on a Sunday afternoon?

Some of the gamers I watch will post videos of their own perspectives and audio streams of the same match they’re all playing in. I will watch each of their versions just because I enjoy their chemistry, not because I might see something particular different from their perspectives (although I might, depending on what the format is of what they’re collaborating on).

So the obvious answer I guess is that networks would be afraid of losing control; they also need to provide a consistent ad experience.

Covering All Your Angles

But wouldn’t breaking up the audio into different streams actually help? Sure, the companies with rights to broadcast would not want anyone to be able to hijack their video and add on their own content layer. But the companies you’d think would be able to farm out the commentary to licensed teams, with the stipulation that they all have to go off the same schedule and commercial breaks.

If you carve up the commentators, and try to attract the best talent, now you’re able to provide a view of an event through someone’s eyes that you may be willing to listen to: a casual fan stream, a pop culture stream, a super-technical insider baseball stream, the non-football fan Superbowl stream, etc.

This would be pretty exciting! On reddit you’d see a thread hyping the upcoming Democratic primary, because Jon Stewart just announced he’d be doing one of the live audio streams. Or maybe Bill Simmons is going to cover game 5 of the Celtics-Lakers series. The meme potential can be pretty huge. You could switch between the streams during an event. You could measure performance between the different commentator teams — their own competition, in fact. Shit, with gambling on sports now being legal, you might as well go to the next level of meta and start placing bets on how the commentators will perform that night. In terms of representation, you could get different gender/race combos covering the event.

From a business point of view, it really seems like a way to cut off competitors at the pass as they try to find some unique angle to show the content that your company has for some reason decided not to (or been unable to) cover. If you have 360 coverage of an event (with commentary, with cameras around the entire playing field, with Moneyball stats), there’s not much a competitor could do to chip away at you. Probably a bad thing for consumers, but I’m just trying to figure out why this hasn’t happened yet.