The tech giant Microsoft has becomes an Official Technology Partner for the NBA, and both the companies together will create a direct-to-consumer platform that delivers new fan engagement experiences and enhanced streaming capabilities powered by Microsoft Azure and its AI capabilities.
The companies have planned up to create a Microsoft Azure-powered streaming app that will deliver personalized game broadcasts using machine learning and AI to learn fans’ preferences and could contain a range of social and gaming-like reward opportunities (e.g. personal achievements, loyalty points) for fans.
And as part of the partnership, Microsoft will become the Official Artificial Intelligence Partner and an Official Cloud and Laptop 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.
They’ll broadcast live and on-demand games via Microsoft Azure and add personalized real-time stats overlays. They’ll also explore new ways to share clips from historical video archives, reward viewers, and catch fans up on their favorite teams without having them search through all scores, headlines, and highlights.
This partnership is aiming to create an excellent viewing experience for 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 NBA.com 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 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.
This partnership of NBA and Microsofts also looking to build a solution 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.
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 demographic.
This will create a more personalized fan experience that tailors the content to the preferences of the fan, rewards participation, and provides more insights and analysis than ever. Additionally, this platform will enable the NBA to uncover unique insights and add new dimensions to the game for fans, coaches, and broadcasters.
The companies will also explore additional ways technology can be used to enhance the NBA’s business and game operations. The new platform will effectively become an enhanced version of the NBA App.
“We are thrilled to serve as the official AI partner of the NBA,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “Together, we’ll bring fans closer to the game and players they love with new personalized experiences powered by Microsoft Azure.”
“This partnership with Microsoft will help us redefine the way our fans experience NBA basketball,” said Adam Silver, NBA commissioner. “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.”
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