Microsoft Inks Deal With NBA to Use Cloud and Surface Tablets

The NBA will use Microsoft Azure and Surface tablets to create new game features for the 2020-21 season.
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Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Report has signed a deal with the NBA to provide the basketball league with Azure cloud services and Surface tablets.

The deal is effective for the league's 2020-21 season. Along with other professional sports leagues, the NBA suspended its current season in March to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

The league is aiming to use the technology to deliver new features and experiences for fans, which could include live translations, specialized camera angles for favorite players, the display of statistics, integrated archival footage or allowing fans to chat during games. 

The NBA will also move some of its key on-premise infrastructure over to Microsoft's Azure services. Azure will also serve as the exclusive back-end technical partner to power the NBA's direct-to-consumer app, the companies said. 

"I think the fact that we are announcing it in the middle of this pandemic is a testament to how important it is that we move forward with this deal,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told CNBC on Thursday. “Time is of the essence here.”

Part of the goal is to open up new experiences for fans if games are played without crowds for some period of time, Silver said.  

“How can you replace that experience?” Silver added. “Maybe we can come close to it.”

The NHL, MLS and Major League Baseball all suspended their seasons in response to coronavirus, along with other sports leagues. 

Terms and duration of the deal weren't disclosed. The NFL has had a deal with Microsoft for coaches and players to use its Surface tablets during games since 2013. 

Microsoft shares rose 1.98% on Thursday to $175.29 and are up 9% year to date. 

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