Verizon Adds NBA Streaming Services to ‘+Play’ Platform

Verizon announced that NBA League Pass, the league’s live-game subscription service, and NBA TV, the league’s highlight streaming service, are the latest additions to the telecom’s +play platform affording the telecom’s wireless subscribers a single access point to third-party services.

Similar to Amazon Prime Channels, which give Prime members easier access to other subscription streaming services, Verizon’s +play gives users the ability to access and manage their subscriptions to both NBA League Pass and NBA TV, among others.

“As one of the largest direct-to-consumer distributors in the country, we’re solving for millions of customers’ pain points by providing them with an innovative tool to manage and get exclusive deals on multiple subscriptions all in one place,” Erin McPherson, chief content officer for Verizon, said in a statement.

NBA Launching New Streaming Service With Microsoft

The National Basketball Association may be sidelined due to the coronavirus, but the league officials have been busy readying a new branded streaming service when play resumes.

The league April 16 announced a multiyear deal with Microsoft that includes development of a new direct-to-consumer streaming video service on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

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The service, which will be co-managed by the NBA and WarnerMedia Entertainment’s Turner Sports, will incorporate “machine learning” and artificial intelligence to offer consumers personalized game streaming and TV broadcasts.

Machine learning is the study of computer algorithms that improve automatically through experience. It is seen as a subset of artificial intelligence.

Turner, along with ESPN, has a $24 billion, 10-year broadcast deal with the NBA that goes through the 2024-25 season.

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“By creating a new platform that brings together all the things that make up being an NBA fan — whether that’s watching games, buying a ticket, participating in fantasy or buying merchandise, we can use that platform to re-imagine and diversify what it means to be an NBA fan,” Chris Benyarko, EVP of direct-to-consumer for the NBA, said in a statement.

The NBA currently offers standalone streaming access to out-of-market games through its League Pass SVOD service. The new service with Microsoft would enhance League Pass’ camera angles; multiple game audio options, including a social media influencer calling the game or listening to the game in a different language; and interactive trivia and questions during game telecasts.

“Imagine all of those features now being on a platform that’s able to use deep ‘machine learning’ AI capabilities to serve those up to a user; so instead of the fan having to pick and choose and turn them on or off one by one, the platform is now starting to behave like a game producer, automatically selecting and presenting the game in a different way,” Benyarko said.

The Azure platform aims to create a more personalized fan experience that tailors the content to the preferences of the fan, rewards participation, and provides more insights and analysis.

“The AI eventually learns that I like to learn about stats, so it’s going to start presenting me more information about stats as I go into the game,” said Deb Cupp, VP of enterprise and commercial industries at Microsoft. “It’s this experience where instead of just watching a game, it actually has the opportunity to interact in a way that matters to me as that fan; it’s enriching the experience and frankly just makes it more valuable to me.”

The platform will enable users to set up an account and enter preferences — favorite team, favorite players, statistics, history, trivia and gaming — the software can then customize to that user.

The platform claims to allow users to catch up on games and personalized information they most care about.

“To me, that is what describes the fan engagement,” Cupp said. “It allows me to interact the way I want to interact, at the time I want to interact.”

While the 2020-21 season remains on hiatus due to the coronavirus, the NBA’s collaboration with Microsoft will expand next year with the software behemoth becoming the Official Artificial Intelligence Partner and an Official Cloud and Laptop Partner for the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League, and USA Basketball.

“Together, we’ll bring fans closer to the game and players they love with new personalized experiences powered by Microsoft Azure,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.

NBA TV Streaming Service Now Available as Standalone Product

With the 2019-20 NBA season about to start, the league for the first time is selling its NBA TV streaming service without a requisite pay-TV contract.

NBA TV, which affords subscribers live access to out-of-market games, costs $6.99 monthly or $59.99 annually, which comes out to $4.99 per month.

The league also offers NBA League Pass priced from $119.99 to $249.99 annually, which afford subs access to commercial free live streaming, archived games, condensed game replays, radio broadcasts, VR access and NBA Finals, among other features.

Launched in 1999 as a 24-hour cable channel, NBA League Pass began offering streaming video access to select games in 2006. It became available on Dish Network’s Sling TV online platform in 2018.

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Yahoo Sports Bowing NBA-Themed Studio Streaming Show

The National Basketball Association, Turner Sports and Yahoo Sports are set to debut a live nightly studio show, “The Bounce,” available on Yahoo Sports and the Yahoo Sports app on iOS and Android beginning Jan. 21, with a special 5-8 p.m. ET launch.

The show will air five nights per week — Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday — from 8-11 p.m. ET through the end of the 2018-19 NBA regular season.

This mobile-specific show is part of a multiyear deal and claims to be the first of its kind, offering the league through analysis from a roster of hosts along with in-progress highlights, a live scoreboard, social media integrations, and behind-the-scenes footage.

“The Bounce” will be co-produced by Turner Sports and Yahoo Sports from the Turner Studios in Atlanta, featuring rotating analysts Gary Payton, Swin Cash and Jason Terry, as well as Turner commentators Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, Allie LaForce and Stephanie Ready as studio hosts.

Geoff Reiss, GM of Yahoo Sports, said the show expands upon Verizon’s partnership with the NBA.

“The Bounce … will give fans a new way to stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the NBA, while providing them with access to NBA League Pass [SVOD service] all in one place.”

NBA League Pass has been available on Yahoo since last season. Yahoo Sports is also the official fantasy game for NBA.com.

“The Bounce builds on Yahoo Sports’ comprehensive NBA programming that already includes editorial coverage, traditional highlights and the league’s official Fantasy Game,” said David Denenberg, SVP of global media distribution and business affairs, NBA.

In addition to the premiere of series, the NBA’s MLK Jr. Day programming will feature a slate of five nationally televised games across TNT and NBA TV.

“We’re looking forward to producing this innovative form of content for NBA fans as a supplement to the in-depth coverage available on NBA TV and across the NBA Digital portfolio,” said Scooter Vertino, SVP of production, programming and content, NBA Digital.