NBA, Verizon Pact for Live-Game Subscriptions on Yahoo, Tech Development

Verizon and the NBA have entered into an expanded deal covering distribution of live games on NBA League Pass — as well as highlights packages and other original content — across Yahoo and the telco’s other Oath properties.

Also under the multiyear deal, the league and Verizon will jointly develop new content formats and “unique fan experiences,” including augmented reality and VR, built on top of the Verizon Wireless 5G network.

Verizon’s NBA pact comes on the heels of the telco inking a major five-year deal with the NFL to distribute live games on mobile — available free in the U.S. — across Yahoo Sports, AOL, go90 and other Oath brands.

However, the NBA’s multiplatform media rights are locked up through 2025 with ESPN and Turner’s TNT. In order to watch the league’s games on Yahoo Sports, users must subscribe to the out-of-market League Pass service, which carries some 1,100 live games per year, for $99 per season (available only on mobile in the U.S.). Verizon also will let registered users watch up to eight NBA League Pass games for free. The new agreement expands Verizon’s previous deal to offer League Pass on go90.

“It’s our aim to be the first screen people go to for sports – and sports is the best aggregator of audience,” said Brian Angiolet, SVP, global chief media and content officer at Verizon.

In addition to the live games package, Verizon is getting a bunch of “shoulder content” under the NBA partnership.

Later this week Yahoo Sports will launch “NBA Morning Run,” a daily news and highlights show featuring talent from NBA TV and Yahoo. The league and Verizon also will work together on enhanced global Yahoo Fantasy experiences, including a simplified Official NBA Fantasy format, the ability for fans to start their fantasy season at any time, and custom fantasy highlight packages. Moreover, the partners will create original sports and lifestyle programming using the NBA’s archive of footage, to be distributed on Yahoo Sports and other Oath properties.

Verizon has worldwide distribution rights for the NBA’s fantasy-related content; for everything else, it has U.S. rights.

The technology joint development between Verizon and the NBA will focus on “the convergence of content, viewing experiences and technology,” Angiolet said. That is expected to include virtual-reality experiences produced with Oath’s RYOT Studio, as well as broadcasts that let viewers choose their own camera angles.

The NBA and Verizon will work on “reimagining” game broadcasts, according to Bill Koenig, the NBA’s president of global content and media distribution. Koenig noted that last month the NBA announced a deal with Amazon-owned Twitch, under which Twitch will live-stream up to six minor league games per week. The NBA G League games on Twitch include interactive statistics overlays, and a co-streaming option for select Twitch personalities to provide their own live commentary.

“Imagine a much more customizable way to watch an NBA game,” said Angiolet.

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