Since there won’t be any cheering fans in arenas for the foreseeable future, the NBA is leaning on Microsoft to recreate a live stadium experience for those watching at home.
Microsoft and the NBA announced in April a multi-year deal aimed at building new digital features for fans. On Friday, they jointly announced that the NBA will use Together Mode, Microsoft’s recently released videoconferencing feature, to mimic being next to one another at games starting on July 30 when the NBA season resumes.
“This new experience -- the first to go live as a result of the NBA/Microsoft partnership -- gives participating fans the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game without leaving the comfort and safety of their homes,” wrote Microsoft's head of Microsoft 365 in a blog post.
The NBA will outfit each game court with 17-foot-tall, wraparound LED screens that will broadcast 300 fans. Viewers can also watch a live feed of the game within Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft unveiled Together Mode earlier this month, pitching it as a way to combat the fatigue that can accompany standard videoconferencing. The feature places a live avatar of meeting participants in a virtual setting, like an auditorium, and is aimed at making videoconferencing and virtual presentations feel more natural.
Other Teams features that Microsoft recently announced that are coming later this year include a dynamic view, video filters, live emoji reactions and transcripts. Soon, Teams will also be able to support up to 1,000 participants, or up to 20,000 if the majority are passively watching rather than presenting.
Microsoft shares have gained 25% year to date, in part due to heavier usage of Microsoft’s cloud collaboration products.
For the second quarter, the tech giant reported earnings of $1.46 per share and a 13% increase in revenue to $38 billion, topping consensus estimates on both counts.