On May 3rd, Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans will square off. You'll be able to watch the matchup on ESPN, and it very well could be a great, entertaining NBA game. But you might have way more fun if you watch on ESPN2, ESPN+ or ESPN Deportes instead. A Marvel-themed "Arena of Heroes" broadcast will air on those platforms on what will be just he second occasion that ESPN+ has streamed a live NBA game.
Superheroes including Black Panther, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel will appear, while commentators will call the game from a Marvel-themed studio. There'll be a Marvel storyline running through the game, as the Avengers "will hold a series of contests where the winners earn the right to train and fight alongside them as Marvel’s Champions," .
The contest will focus on three players from each team: the Warriors' Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, and Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball of the Pelicans. Alternates will be chosen if any of those athletes can't play.
The players will earn Marvel Hero points for every rebound, assist, steal, block and point they rack up, but if there's a turnover or a player misses a field goal or free throw, they'll lose hero points. Whichever player accrues the most hero points will be crowned Marvel's first champion.
Gamifying a pro sports game might seem like overkill, but it'll add a fun touch to the matchup and perhaps draw in extra viewers with a more family-friendly broadcast. As CNBC notes, ratings for NBA games on ESPN are down 15 percent on average from last season to 1.2 million viewers.
The NFL tried a similar tactic with a post-season game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears in January. A kid-friendly version of the broadcast aired on Nickelodeon. Kids explained the likes of false starts, while augmented-reality slime cannons erupted in the Slime Zone (what boring people might call the touchdown zone). It was the most-watched program on the network in two years, with 2 million viewers.