NBA taps Verizon to stream games in VR

Expanded deal also sees Yahoo Sports create new betting-related content.

by Steven Impey

NBA taps Verizon to stream games in VR
  • Verizon’s Ryot enlisted for VR production from 2019/20 restart
  • At least 12 live NBA League Pass games available via Oculus headsets
  • NBA and Verizon last renewed in 2018, with deal worth reported US$400m

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and US telecommunications company Verizon have signed a multi-year partnership expansion that will see betting content and virtual reality (VR) viewing options integrated into the NBA League Pass streaming platform.

Verizon-owned Ryot will make at least 12 live games from the NBA’s restart in Orlando, Florida available to League Pass subscribers between 31st July and 14th August via Oculus Quest and Oculus Go VR headsets.

Under the terms of the deal, Ryot will be the NBA’s official VR production partner for the 2019/20 season restart, which got underway on 30th July at the Walt Disney World Resort.

The move comes a week after Major League Baseball (MLB) announced a similar activation ahead of its 23rd July resumption, including the launch of a new Oculus-supported platform that allows MLB.tv subscribers to live stream out-of-market games in VR.

Verizon chief executive Guru Gowrappan said: “Ryot’s powerful VR capabilities will deliver a truly immersive live experience at home, creating a seamless experience between the physical and digital world.

“NBA League Pass in VR is exactly the kind of innovative solution we love to create with our partners. Working with the NBA to redefine the fan’s experience of the game has amazing implications for the future of sports and entertainment.”

Meanwhile, the broader deal will also see Verizon-owned Yahoo Sports expand League Pass’ live fantasy and betting offering as an official marketing partner of the NBA.

That expanded offering will allow Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Fantasy and Yahoo Sportsbook to distribute live, out-of-market games in League Pass and engage with fans through digital overlays. It will also include the creation of two shows focused on fantasy and betting to coincide with the NBA Conference Finals and NBA Finals. 

Yahoo Sports will also continue to exclusively operate the NBA’s season-long fantasy game, create NBA-branded daily fantasy and sports betting integrations, and collaborate at marquee events including the NBA Draft and NBA All-Star weekend. 

Yahoo Sports will also be the presenting partner of the NBA Pick’Em: Playoffs Bracket Challenge, which will be integrated into the NBA’s other digital assets, NBA TV, NBA.com and the NBA app.

In addition to the NBA, game footage from the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the NBA G League development competition will also be used to create content that will help inform fans participating in Yahoo’s fantasy and sports betting offerings.

Bill Koenig, the NBA’s president for global content and media distribution, said: “As the NBA Restart tips off this week, our expanded relationship with Yahoo Sports will offer a variety of unique ways for fans to engage with the NBA.

“With everything from fantasy games, sports betting integrations, gaming-focused content and NBA games in VR, there will be no shortage of opportunities to get closer to the game.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The NBA and Verizon last extended and expanded their partnership in 2018 in a deal worth a reported US$400 million.