BMC 5.208 - Doctoral candidate, research presentation
"Transition Game: The National Basketball Association, Sports Television, and the Multi-Channel Shift"
Abstract: Historical accounts of the U.S. television industry have long suggested that sports are a safe programming option for outlets seeking a homogeneous “national” viewership. My study of sports television during the 1970s complicates this narrative of homogeneity and offers a new perspective on the U.S. television industry’s transition from network oligopoly to multi-channel media environment. As technological, regulatory, and cultural changes confronted the media industries in the 1970s, a television industry that had increasingly embraced sports television as a draw for “mass” audiences over the past three decades intensified its programming of sports to attract ever more nuanced audience segments. Through a historiographical analysis of the evolving relationship between the television industry and the National Basketball Association, the chief institution set to oversee what many predicted would become the U.S. nation’s “sport of the seventies,” I inquire when, why, and how different television outlets struggled until the 1980s to achieve “national” mainstream success with NBA programming. Using archival research, discourse analysis, and textual analysis, I show how the television industry shifted its sports/basketball programming practices in order to appeal to audiences who were increasingly fragmented in both their entertainment choices and their political perspectives. Through such a study, the first to analyze this major American team sport from a media studies perspective, I uncover the changing practices of the television, sports, and advertising industries as they and the American public negotiated national identity and the boundaries of race during a time of intense cultural and industrial transformation.