Professional sports are embracing technology like never before – from slime cameras on NFL games, to virtual reality streaming, maintaining and growing audiences depends on a league’s ability to adapt to the times. 

Just watching sports isn’t enough anymore. Fans want to be able to rewatch their favorite games on demand; see the hottest live games with real-time stat overlays, and even interact with the teams and players, just like on social media. 

Thanks to the pandemic it’s become more essential than ever that professional sports leagues figure out how to keep fans involved in the sport, even from their own living rooms. 

Which is why sports leagues are starting to partner with prominent tech giants to create their very own interactive, direct-to-consumer streaming platform. 

Picked for the Team

In early 2020, The NBA announced that it teamed up with Microsoft to create a unique, league-owned OTT platform for the league’s national and international fans. 

The new platform will reportedly integrate all of the NBA products and subsidiaries, such as League Pass, the WNBA , the NBA G League and USA Basketball. It will include personalized game broadcasts, real-time overlays, archived content and even gaming elements, which will allow fans to interact with their favorite teams. 

“This partnership with Microsoft will help us redefine the way our fans experience NBA basketball,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver in an interview with Sports Pro Media. “Our goal, working with Microsoft, is to create customised content that allows fans — whether they are in an NBA arena or watching from anywhere around the world — to immerse themselves in all aspects of the game and engage directly with our teams and players.”

Not every sports league finds that a dedicated streamer is the answer, however. Instead, some are teaming up with new streamers owned by old pals.

Peacock Shoots … and Scores!

NBC Universal’s streamer Peacock is aiming to become the online home for live sports. The fledgling streamer has been leveraging it’s previous relationships to land the exclusive US broadcast rights for the Premier League Soccer. 

Currently, 175 games per Premier League season are exclusive to Peacock TV, a number that’s expected to grow in the 2021/22 season. As of January 12, NBC’s OTT service will also feature “on-demand replays of all televised matches,” after soccer fans voiced their disapproval over the lack of replays being offered. 

Clearly, NBC Universal is listening to the fans to ensure that they remain the place to go for live sports online. Their commitment to the fans helped the fledgling streamer grow to 26 million users by the end of December, 2020 – but it wasn’t only the Premier League that got them there.

The Smack down

The WWE also announced they were moving their content over to NBC Universal’s Peacock TV. After seven years running a dedicated OTT streaming service, the WWE  sold exclusive broadcast rights to Peacock in 2020.

Launching March 18, 2021, the WWE Network on Peacock will feature live pay-per-view events, along with new, original and archived content from the WWE Network. 

Peacock is growing thanks to an influx of sports  – some from the now shutdown cable network NBCSN – and hopes to see even larger growth this summer when they air the Tokyo Olympics.