IIt was time to rethink the National Basketball Association’s digital strategy. Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO who owns the Los Angeles Clippers, said the same, as did Ted Leonsis of the Washington Wizards and tech billionaire Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks. So when the NBA’s deal with Warner Bros. Discovery to run the league’s mobile app expired in 2021, the NBA took control of its digital destiny and transferred its partnership to Microsoft. The collaboration begins ahead of the 2022-23 NBA season opener jump on October 18.
The partners say the deal to rebuild the NBA app will benefit both. For the league, that means stability and the hope of less latency issues with a free app that provides on-demand vintage games and stats that will keep fantastic players up to date. For Microsoft, that means it has gained a foothold in what could be the mainstream consumer technology of the future.
“It’s the ability for Microsoft to say, ‘We’re in the live streaming business,'” said Deb Cupp, president of Microsoft’s North America division. Forbes.
Separately, the NBA and Microsoft are also collaborating on an enhanced version of NBA League Pass, a service that streams games out of town. The league dropped the price from around $300 per year to $14.99 per month for a single device and $19.99 per month for multiple devices. Microsoft’s artificial intelligence will help customize scoreboards and player stats for bettors and fantasy league fanatics.
“It’s going to make watching live games a whole new experience,” said Chris Benyarko, executive vice president of direct-to-consumer sales for the NBA.
Benyarko didn’t provide specific estimates regarding future revenue or subscriber goals, and it’s unclear how much the NBA is investing.
The NBA, like its cousin the National Football League, doesn’t really suffer when it comes to finances. The average value of an NBA franchise has risen from $1.9 billion in 2019 to $2.48 billion in 2021, according to Forbes The data. A new media deal, expected to be negotiated after the 2024-25 season, could net the NBA nearly $75 billion.
The NBA is playing the long game by positioning itself for a future generation that will consume live sports outside of the cable ecosystem. League executives believe the app’s enhancements that include mimic Instagram Stories, a miniseries around the popular Golden State Warriors, and access to the classic NBA “game vault” will entice fans to sign up, and that the reduced price of the NBA League Pass will convince customers. make the leap despite the worst inflation in 40 years.
The league also added a membership feature called “NBA ID” to the mobile app. It offers users goods and tickets to buy. During the season, the app will air “CrunchTime,” a Monday night whipping show with live looks at games, similar to the NFL’s RedZone channel.
David Levy, the former president of Turner Sports, praised the NBA’s digital strategy and revamped app. He said Forbes the league is transitioning to an “omnichannel” business with its hands in multiple layers of cash flow, including digital ticketing and NFTs.
“They’ve always had the mentality of fishing where the fish are,” Levy said. “It means, ‘Let’s get the content to as many people as possible, but keep some of it for revenue and licensing purposes.'”
Levy, now president of sports data company Genius Sports, compared professional leagues creating their own streaming services to launching league-run cable channels more than 20 years ago – with the NBA becoming the first in 1999. At the time, the leagues wanted their own gateway to the cable world, and the channels also protected them in case the networks became stingy with rights fees.
“We’ll learn a lot from the fan reaction,” Benyarko of the NBA said. “Depending on what we see during the season, there is always a possibility to adjust. But we feel good where we are right now.