NBA’s Microsoft Partnership and How Tech is Transforming the Fan Experience
It is fair to say that few sports leagues can rival the NBA for its sheer scale and popularity. The figures surrounding the renowned basketball competition speak for themselves, with Statista.com estimating that the 30 teams involved generated combined revenues of almost $9 billion in the 2018/19 season.
However, despite such remarkable figures, the league is not prepared to rest on its laurels when it comes to providing fans with a quality experience. This was highlighted in the middle of April by the announcement that it is linking up with Microsoft to create a new consumer platform.
We’ve partnered with the @NBA to bring fans closer to the game and players they love. 🏀— Microsoft (@Microsoft) April 20, 2020
Together, we’ll create a new, innovative platform powered by Microsoft Azure and AI that will redefine the fan experience: https://t.co/e0wYJ55ANm
An exciting partnership
Under the terms of the multi-year partnership, Microsoft will become the Official Artificial Intelligence Partner and Official Cloud and Laptop Partner for the NBA, as well as the WNBA, NBA G League and USA Basketball.
There is more to the agreement than titles however, as NBA Digital will work with the technology powerhouse to create a new direct-to-consumer platform which will be based on the Microsoft Azure system. Expected to make use of machine learning and AI, the system will offer up game broadcasts to fans while also integrating other products and services from elsewhere across the NBA brand.
A big focus of the project is personalization, as it is hoped the platform will be able to use the latest technology to tailor the content on offer to the expectations and interests of fans. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, said in the announcement that the aim was to “bring fans closer to the game and players they love”.
The news is certainly exciting for NBA fans and it will be intriguing to see the kind of platform that ultimately emerges. In many ways, the news also reflects once again how technology is continuing to transform so many aspects of the sports world.
From the data that coaches are able to collect on player performance to the way that fans access news or highlights of their favorite teams, tech has had a major impact on sport in the past decade or so. One of the biggest developments to affect sport has been the emergence of mobile devices, as these have given fans a chance to access scores and other updates at the touch of a button. They are also able to make wagers on the outcome of events too, with William Hill being one brand which offers its sports betting services via apps for smartphone and tablet.
All of the signs point to technology having a greater impact on sport going forward as well, particularly with the emergence of 5G networks all over the world. The technology is expected to take the speed and quality of mobile connectivity to a new level, and a survey undertaken by Vodafone in the UK in October found that 76 per cent of business leaders in sport believe it will have a big impact on fan experiences. Vodafone went on to suggest is could boost the use of innovations including live-streaming, mixed reality experiences and also access to real-time data.
An exciting future awaits
Technology has transformed so many aspects of our daily lives, but one area where its presence has clearly been felt strongly is the world of sport.
Both the NBA’s partnership with Microsoft and the emergence of new innovations like 5G point to a very exciting future and it will be fascinating to see how the technology around sport continues to develop in the years ahead.
One thing seems pretty certain – the experience of being a sports fan may simply never be the same again.