Hours before it officially tips off its shortened season, the National Basketball Association announced its renewed plan Thursday to provide virtual reality experiences for fans who can't attend its Disney World bubble campus in Orlando.
The league partnered with Verizon Media-owned Yahoo Sports to make the company an official marketing partner of the NBA and help the league distribute virtual reality games. The agreement is a multiyear partnership, and though financial terms were not disclosed, the last extension in 2018 was an estimated $400 million.
The renewal also grants Yahoo Sports rights to create sports betting content and expand its distribution of NBA League Pass to include gaming integrations, a company statement said. Yahoo Sports will also have more brand exposure on NBA TV and the NBA website, which is co-managed with AT&T-owned Turner Sports.
Media company RYOT, also owned by Verizon, becomes the NBA's virtual reality production partner and will "produce live NBA games in VR and transport the physical games taking place." Fans will need access to one of Facebook's Oculus Quest VR devices to watch.
"There will be no shortage of opportunities to get closer to the game," said Bill Koenig, NBA president of global content and media distribution.
"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," added Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan in a statement.
By renewing its partnership with the NBA, Verizon Media said it wants to diversify its revenue in the gaming category and establish additional direct-to-consumer products as fans remain sidelined from attending significant sporting events due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, the NBA also named tech company Hyperice its the official recovery technology partner of the NBA. Terms of the multiyear partnership were no disclosed.
The NBA will resume its season, which was suspended on March 11 by Covid-19, with two games on Thursday. Rookie superstar Zion Williamson will lead the New Orleans Pelicans against the Utah Jazz, followed by Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers playing the Kawhi Leonard-led Los Angeles Clippers.
Verizon purchased Yahoo for $4.8 billion in 2017.