NBA, Microsoft developing streaming service for transformed game broadcasts

The NBA is developing a new direct-to-consumer streaming platform in partnership with Microsoft that aims to improve the viewer experience through personalized broadcasts, league and company executives announced on Thursday.

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The streaming service will use Microsoft’s machine learning and artificial technologies to stream NBA games with “next-generation, personalized game broadcasts and other content offerings,” according to a press release. In a multi-year deal, Microsoft was also named the official artificial intelligence, cloud and laptop partner for the NBA, the WNBA and other properties.

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“This partnership with Microsoft will help us redefine the way our fans experience NBA basketball,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Our goal, working with Microsoft, is to create customized content that allows fans — whether they are in an NBA arena or watching from anywhere around the world — to immerse themselves in all aspects of the game and engage directly with our teams and players.”

The NBA did not set a launch date for the streaming service, which will incorporate its existing “League Pass” subscription plan that gives fans access to out-of-market games. However, the NBA's deal with Microsoft takes effect beginning with the 2020-21 season.

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The league’s 2019-20 season is currently on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s unclear if or when play will resume this year.

The streaming service will use the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform. The platform will use a rewards system to motivate fan interaction, feature chat capabilities and provide access to enhanced stat overlays and video feeds. Fans will receive curated content recommendations through the artificial intelligence capabilities.

“We are thrilled to serve as the official AI partner of the NBA,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said. “Together, we’ll bring fans closer to the game and players they love with new personalized experiences powered by Microsoft Azure.”

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Aside from its deal with the NBA, Microsoft also has a longtime sponsorship deal with the NFL that includes prominent displays of its gadgets on sidelines. It’s unclear if NBA coaches will have access to Microsoft tablets or laptops during games.

NBA noted the streaming service will integrate its social media base of 1.8 billion subscribers and provide tie-ins for its business operations, such as ticket sales and merchandise.

Aside from airing games live and on-demand, the steaming service will provide to the NBA’s content archives.

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