The Blacktop at the Global Village

A while back I discussed a future where media producers scoured the playgrounds to find raw talent that could be incorporated into the virtual sports worlds of tomorrow. It appears that such a day is closer than I imagined.

Street Hoops, the latest sports title by developers Black Ops Entertainment, signs city legends such as Booger Smith and The Future (known from their appearances in the Nike "Freestyle" commercials) so they can "capture the aggressive energy and attitude of blacktop competition."

As IGN.com points out, Street Hoops presents a fairly stereotypical picture of "ghetto culture." But then again, this game is likely meant for (white) kids in the suburbs, so the distinction is probably lost on them.

Black Ops is not alone in this plundering of the inner cities. Nike's AND 1, the now-defunct HoopsTV.com, and a host of others.

For it's own sake, the NBA had better not miss the deeper distinction taking place: media companies and advertisers are re-engineering their products by using less-refined inputs further up the supply chain, thereby reducing their costs in the process. Witness the following processes:

The final product of the latter — that is, the repackaged media experience brought to the home consumer — is by no means the same quality as that coming from the NBA, but for many it is good enough. Furthermore, the disintermediation of the distribution channel reduces costs for the remaining channel members. The League depends on licensing fees from videogame companies and sponsorship dollars from advertisers at least as much as they do ticket sales from fans, and perhaps more so. If such direct-from-the-street offerings continue to proliferate, the NBA could be facing a substantial erosion of total revenues in the future.