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Microsoft today announced a multi-year deal with the National Basketball Association (NBA) which sees the tech giant provide Azure cloud, artificial intelligence, and laptops to the league. This will also apply to the WNBA, NBA G-League, and USA Basketball programs. The deal is set to start at the beginning of the 2020-21 season.
As part of the deal, the NBA will utilize Microsoft's Azure cloud platform to broadcast live and on-demand games along with personalized experiences. The league will also use the machine learning and data analytics provided by Azure to provide greater insight into fan and coach preferences.
“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.”
If this sounds familiar, it's because Microsoft has a similar deal with the NFL. The company signed a five-year, $400 million deal with the NFL back in 2014 to allow players and coaches to use Surface tablets to view plays and formations. However, it seems that some coaches aren't too keen on the idea.
Microsoft recently extended its deal with the NFL to include using Microsoft Teams for communications.
Other than becoming the exclusive technology partner to the NBA, not much else is known outside of the official announcement including the monetary details. Microsoft is supposed to be the official laptop supplier but it isn't known which Surface product will be used. It's likely that teams will use the Surface tablet during games while broadcasters use the Surface laptop.
The on-demand and live broadcast part of the deal is significant at a time when most, if not all, sports leagues have cancelled their respective seasons in response to the global Coronavirus pandemic. This partnership with Microsoft could help the league better utilize digital means to reach fans at at time when games cannot be played in public.
“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.”