NBA All-Star Game 2012 becomes world event on TV, social media - Orlando Sentinel

The NBA All-Star Game will be telecast Sunday in 215 countries, including Mongolia and Thailand, but more astonishing is how the game will reach millions through social media.

"Last year, we had 1 million fans in China following us on social media. This year we have 41 million," said Matt Brabants, NBA senior vice president of international media distribution.

Beyond China, the NBA puts its reach at 200 million fans globally through Twitter and 14 international Facebook pages. The NBA, which has offices in 14 markets outside the United States, sees that interaction as crucial to the league's growth. Ten percent of the league's annual revenue reportedly comes from outside the United States.

"Each year, more countries are coming to us and telling us they want the NBA," Brabants said. "Basketball is a sport that people in many countries are playing at school or at a local park. It translates to them."

The emerging markets include India and the Middle East. Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language news network, will broadcast from Orlando to the Middle East.

The world fascination is reflected in NBA player numbers: 76 come from 36 countries and territories.  To cover theAll-Star Game, more than 336 media members from 39 countries have traveled to Orlando. Interest in Asia is flourishing: China has sent 90 members, Japan 21 and the Philippines 11.

Brabants said the biggest challenge is accommodating the media and getting them access so they will return for the NBA All-Star Game in Houston next year. The game's host city is a story each year.

"People want to see what's going on in Orlando," Brabants said. "A lot of our partners want to bring that picture back home."

The Orlando game is a homecoming for George Eddy, the voice of the NBA in France, who works for Canal Plus France. He graduated from Winter Park High School in 1974, played professional basketball in France and lives outside Paris.

Eddy credited superstar Michael Jordan, the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team and French stars such as Tony Parker for bolstering the NBA's growth in France.

"Parker grew up watching our games," Eddy said. "There are about 10 French players in the NBA, one of the biggest contingents of players. It's amazing for a country that's not as big as Russia or China."

Eddy brings a longtime perspective to telling French fans about the host city.

"I grew up in Orlando," he said. "I worked at Disney as a kid when it was getting started. It's incredible to see how this area has grown, including the bad traffic onI-4. It's already a big tourist destination. All-Star Weekend may be an amplification of that."

Dwight Howard's future will be a recurring topic this weekend. Eddy advises that Howard should stay with the Orlando Magic. "He should take the money here and let the Magic build around him," Eddy said. "He has everything he needs in Orlando."

25 Feb, 2012

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