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The NBA Is Owning the NFL on the Internet

Basketball is easy to find online, and it’s helped the sport. The NFL hasn’t followed the same route.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

"Did you catch that play last night?" is such a common exclamation in sports. If you didn’t see it live — no problem, we have the internet. And if that play took place in the NBA, you’ll have no trouble, because the NBA uploads every clip onto its website. But even if you’re not on NBA.com, YouTube or Twitter will usually have the latest highlights. The NFL is a much different experience — they’ve locked down what fans have access to. That difference in philosophy has helped the NBA market itself, a phenomenon Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman explored on the latest Bill Simmons Podcast.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Bill Simmons: The NBA is still doing it so much smarter than the NFL. I think literally the smartest thing the NBA did [in] the last 10 years was to make all their stuff just available. And it’s like, "Oh, you’re watching a game and you wanted to cut that Blake Griffin dunk and just put it on YouTube? Go ahead, knock yourself out. You wanted to cut montages of all the 3s the Rockets hit this season? Knock yourself out." They allow people to use their footage because they feel like it’s the best marketing they could have. All these young people carving their footage in different ways and pushing it and promoting it promotes the league. It’s free advertising.

The NFL’s the opposite. The NFL makes you pay for every second of their footage, and if you put stuff up, they take it down. They don’t want their players to be individuals, and it’s one of the reasons that people don’t really feel a connection with the NFL. They connect with their teams, but they don’t like the league.

Chuck Klosterman: It’s interesting. The way you describe that, it actually reminds me of when Napster happened.

So, when Napster was happening and file-sharing was this thing and you could get downloaded music for free and exchange it for free, there were some artists who were like, "This is awesome, let’s do this. This can only help me. People hearing my music can only help me because right now, I’m barely making it." But artists like Metallica were like, "This is fucking crazy. Our material has value. Why are you taking something that we [could make money off of] and making it valueless?" I think the NFL views itself more like Metallica.

[The NFL thinks:] "This product we have is really worth something, so we gotta make sure that people just don’t kind of take it and throw it around," whereas like NBA is more like the Streets. They were like Mike Skinner of the Streets, and they were like, "I don’t care if people take this and do whatever they want with it. It’s collaborative between us and them," or whatever.

Simmons: I remember Adam [Silver] told me once before he was commissioner, and I think it was a podcast you and I did, where we were super critical of something that the NBA did. He said to me, "You know, I didn’t agree with what you guys said, but I love that you’re having the conversation. And you did it respectfully. I disagreed, but it’s great. We want people having conversations about our league." And [the NBA] has felt that way since Silver started to grab a little control from Stern and kinda nudge him in the right direction — because Stern really operated like Goodell for a long period of time. Then gradually the league became a lot more fan-friendly at the end of last decade, and I think that’s really interesting. I don’t think Roger Goodell would ever say in a million years, "I’m really glad you had that conversation even though it wasn’t favorable for us." He would never say that. That’s the difference between those two leagues right there.