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The National Basketball Association has signed a multi-year contract with Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) to make the latter its "official technology partner," the two organizations said in a joint statement Thursday.
Starting the 2020-21 season, the NBA games will be broadcasted both live and on-demand on a new direct-to-consumer platform that runs on Microsoft's Azure cloud service, according to the statement.
Azure will utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence to create personalized game broadcasts for fans. The new platform, which hasn't yet been named, will also display clips to users from the NBA historical video archive, as they watch the games, to augment their experience based on machine learning.
"We are thrilled to serve as the official AI partner of the NBA," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said. "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," NBA commissioner Adam Silver added.
In a separate statement, NBA Executive Vice President, Direct to Consumer, Chris Benyarko, said that the new platform would bring together a host of experiences including different camera angles, multiple game audio options, listening to the game in a different language, and interactive trivia and questions during telecasts.
"Imagine all of those features now being on a platform that's able to use deep machine learning artificial intelligence 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.
Why It Matters
The two organizations have announced the partnership at a time when the NBA season is suspended due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The outbreak has hurried the implementation of virtual communications, including in the sports and entertainment industries, as people across the globe are advised social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Silver told CNBC that making the announcement during the pandemic shows its importance. "Time is of the essence here," he said.
Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire investor Mark Cuban in late March said the NBA could start playing games in May, with only virtual streaming and no fans in the arena.
Microsoft's shares closed 3% higher at $177.04 and added another 2.2$ in the after-hours session at $181.00.
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