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Verizon, NBA Expand Partnership With Mobile Streaming Deal

How’s this for teamwork: Verizon, which last year acquired Yahoo for $4.5 billion, will be offering eight free out-of-market National Basketball Association games on mobile devices through Yahoo Sports and will offer its League Pass subscription at a discounted $99 a season on all of it platforms. The new arrangement expands a $400 million content marketing partnership Verizon and the NBA signed in late 2015.

“The live game experience continues to change for fans,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said yesterday during a webcast with Yahoo Sports writer Chris Mannix that included Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, Yahoo Sports’s Dan Devine reports

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“And increasingly our young fan base is watching NBA content, whether it’s live games or the content you’re creating, through their mobile devices. And what better partner than Verizon as we look to the future and figure out how these young consumers are going to want to consume games?” Silver said.

Indeed. 

“Verizon, the largest U.S. wireless service, has 'moved on’ from exploring potential acquisitions of big companies in favor of obtaining popular programming like live sports to attract subscribers and generate advertising revenue. Last month, the carrier signed an accord with the NFL to stream prime-time games, the 2018 playoffs and the Super Bowl,” reports Scott Moritz for Bloomberg Technology.

“Verizon, which owns Yahoo, is hoping to use sports to build a digital ad business to rival Facebook and Google. The company now lets anyone watch NFL games on a mobile Yahoo app; before, games were limited to Verizon customers. Other major tech companies including Facebook and Amazon are also bidding for sports streaming rights,” according to an AP story on NBA.com.

The deal also “extends the telecommunications giant’s relationship with the league beyond streaming games and into content creation as well as virtual and augmented-reality fan experiences,” writes Joe Flint for the Wall Street Journal.

“Currently, Verizon distributes League Pass only on its go90 platform. As part of the deal, Verizon will gain mobile carrier exclusivity, meaning that no other carrier will be able to offer League Pass subscriptions. Non-Verizon users who have League Pass subscriptions will be able to get access through Yahoo Sports. The deal includes tablet and computer rights as well as mobile rights to games,” Flint continues.

“The deal will allow Yahoo to create new original programming using NBA highlights and archival footage, and to augment Yahoo’s fantasy basketball offerings for fans all over the world through things like a simplified Official NBA Fantasy scoring format and flexible entry for fans looking to start a fantasy season after the NBA campaign has already begun,” writes Yahoo Sports’s Devine.

“As part of the new deal, Verizon and the NBA have created a $25 million innovation fund to develop more features like daily Fantasy or quarter-by-quarter Fantasy to keep fans engaged,” Silver and McAdam revealed during the webcast, Bloomberg’s Moritz reports.

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

“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,” Spangler writes.

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

“The technology is now coming of age to support a vision that the commissioner’s had and that we see from a Yahoo Sports perspective. You’ll be able to take from your phone and cast it up onto your IP-based TV set. You’ll be able to integrate all those different experiences and have people around the country with you and do things in real time because of the latency of the network and the capacity of the network,” Verizon's McAdam said during the webcast yesterday,” Chris Welch reports for The Verge.

“Any future that leans heavily on 5G is probably farther off than Verizon’s CEO would like to believe, but since this new deal is a multi-year pact, at least they’re planning ahead,” Welch observes. 

In a piece in Fortune in November, Deloitte & Touche's Craig Wigginton and Dan Littmann pointed out that the U.S. is not prepared to capitalize on 5G because it does not currently have sufficient fiber installed close to the customer.  

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