The NBA and Microsoft plan to release a new AI-driven DTC streaming platform

Last week, the
and Microsoft announced
a new multiyear partnership aimed at transforming the digital fan
experience through a new direct-to-consumer platform. Microsoft and
NBA Digital will create a Microsoft Azure-powered streaming app
that delivers personalized game broadcasts and could contains a
range of social and gaming-like reward opportunities
(e.g. personal achievements, loyalty points) for fans.

advertisers who had plans to spend on sports

And as part of the partnership, Microsoft will become the
marketing partner of the NBA Draft Combine beginning next season,
and an associate partner for future events, including NBA All-Star,
MGM Resorts NBA Summer League, and the WNBA All-Star. 

Two forces are likely motivating the NBA and Microsoft’s
development of the new AI-driven direct-to-consumer streaming

  • A need to tailor the viewing experience to an increasingly
    global NBA audience. The NBA’s popularity outside of the US brings
    with it a diverse fanbase: For example, more than 35% of
    visitors to come from fans outside of North America, per
    Forbes. While this creates plenty of opportunities, it also
    presents a challenge as the NBA must account for a more diverse
    array of interests, preferences, and habits in order to properly
    serve fans across different markets. Microsoft’s AI and machine
    learning expertise should help the league more easily achieve its
    goal of personalizing the fan experience at scale. In particular,
    Microsoft’s Azure platform should be able to leverage the NBA’s
    vast array of data sources and its video archive to create a more
    personalized and localized experience for fans worldwide.
  • A need to match the shifting viewing habits of younger
    basketball fans. Most fans under the age of 30 watch significantly
    less linear TV than older groups, and the digital programs they do
    watch are often shorter in length.
    To adapt to those shifting consumptions habits, not only is the NBA
    increasing its investment in a medium that appeals to younger
    people, but it’s attempting to create an experience that surfaces
    the exact content a given fan is interested in, whether it be
    fantasy basketball content, sports betting content, or gaming
    content, as fast as possible. The surging popularity of short-form
    content on social platforms like Snapchat and TikTok could provide
    the NBA with a model of how to appeal to this younger

The NBA and Microsoft may be looking to create an experience
that resembles gaming platforms — and if the recent esports
successes of other pro leagues are any indication, that will excite
fans. The NBA first experimented with a gamified approach to live
game broadcast during last year’s NBA finals, when ESPN tested a
Twitch-like digital telecast in its app, which featured on-screen
hosts and emojis-like symbols flashing on the screen.

And with the coronavirus sidelining live sporting events,
leagues have had to dive deeper into gaming to replace traditional
sports. For instance, the NBA hosted a
2K Player tournament in April, which aired on ESPN, ESPN 2, and
various social channels with a decently strong reception
with 387,000
. Similarly, NASCAR, the MLS, and the NHL have also
launched esports programming in recent weeks.

And given that NBA fans skew male, young, and are known to spend
money to support their teams — qualities shared with
most esports fans — the group could be particularly receptive to
the integration of gaming-like features into their broader NBA
viewing experience. 

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Source: FS – All – Entertainment – News
The NBA and Microsoft plan to release a new AI-driven DTC
streaming platform