Earlier this week, Adweek spoke with Turner Sports evp and chief content officer Craig Barry about a new docuseries focusing on the legendary studio show Inside the NBA, titled The Inside Story, which debuts tonight on TNT and concludes Sunday following the network’s broadcast of the NBA All-Star Game.
Barry has called Turner Sports his work home for 30 years. Needless to say, there’s not anyone better equipped to speak about Inside the NBA and Turner Sports as a whole than Barry.
On the four-part docuseries:
“The documentary is really a peek behind the curtain. We did not know when we first started this project how long this documentary was going to be. We thought maybe we would do it an hour, maybe it would be two hours, and then it ultimately ended up as four hours,” said Barry. “We were sifting through 30 years of video, and we interviewed hundreds of people, from employees to obviously the four of them [Ernie Johnson Jr., Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith, and Charles Barkley] and the employees and celebrities and press and all types of people who had something to say about the show. As we were unfolding the chronology, it took on a life of its own.”
We also spoke about changes to the sports division under AT&T ownership and Jeff Zucker’s leadership after Turner president David Levy left the company in 2019.
“I think AT&T supports sports and, specifically, the news and sports division. I think they feel it’s a really important part of the portfolio. As far as Jeff, he’s an amazing content leader. He understands creativity, really understands the editorial and has great instincts there.
The dynamic has been one of a lot of collaboration with Jeff—him wanting to understand what we were doing and why we were doing what we were doing; him being involved in the process and offering suggestions and guidance. It has been an evolution. I’m not saying David didn’t do that, but it’s just different. It’s definitely been a shift—but a welcome shift—and I think that the beneficiary of that shift has been our shows and ultimately our fans.”
On whether there has been any thought with experimenting with offering sports on HBO Max:
“Those conversations are being had. I defer back to again to the strategic development group and the programming group, who are working through those various opportunities. I think that when they’re ready—and it feels right for the business—those discussions will start to accelerate.”
If Turner Sports ever considered making a bid for the next NFL packages:
“All I would say is I think it’s fair to say that we look at everything.”
And of course, we asked about producing March Madness after a year off and amid a pandemic:
“March Madness will be in a bubble. Operating in a bubble, when done correctly, is efficient. It’s as close to doing the games traditionally as we can get. The announcers are in the building, the production teams are on site. We’re very limited in access to the teams and players, but from a production standpoint, the infrastructure is cohesive enough that—with the exception of having the fans in the building and the concentration of games this year, and with the shift in the schedule a little bit—I’m not sure the product will differ that much.
It’s a testament to the incredible amount of work between the NCAA, CBS and Turner. We always say the fan comes first and the fan experience is at the forefront. So, we’ve focused on that again.”