When Adam Silver took the stage at the Qualtrics X4 summit on Thursday, he was introduced with high-energy pop music, his name was beamed across a giant projection screen in a convention center hall, and his insights into consumer analytics and the modern media environment were cheered by a packed house. To the 10,000 attendees of this annual trade show for market researchers and customer satisfaction analysts, the NBA’s wonky commissioner is a LeBron James-like industry superstar.
Before the day’s agenda broke into panel sessions — “Marrying O-Data and X-Data,” “Beyond Satisfaction Scores: The Future of Customer Experience Metrics” and other incomprehensible topics for industry outsiders — Silver explained how the NBA uses data to track everything from League Pass viewing habits to employee satisfaction. Then, in an interview with The Washington Post, he offered a glimpse of what’s ahead, expressing hope for continued labor peace and forecasting the possibility of major changes for its media rights deals and its age limit on high school players.
In light of recent standoffs between teams and superstars like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis, some commentators, including TNT’s Charles Barkley, have predicted that the NBA is headed for a lockout. Aggrieved owners, critics reason, will not stand for players repeatedly forcing their way to greener pastures by issuing public trade demands and sitting out long stretches of games.