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Enlarged NBA-Yahoo Sports deal includes new virtual reality rights

Anthony Davis, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, demos a Verizon 5G virtual reality headset during the league's 2018 All-Star Weekend. Verizon Media, parent company of Yahoo Sports and Ryot, will have additional NBA virtual reality production rights amid a renewed and expanded deal with the league. (Photo by Philip Pacheco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The National Basketball Association has struck a renewed and enlarged multiyear marketing and content agreement with Verizon Media-owned Yahoo Sports that will see the company deploy NBA games in virtual reality and create new betting-related content.

The deal designates Yahoo Sports as an official marketing partner of the league and Ryot, a sister company to Yahoo Sports under the Verizon Media corporate umbrella, as a live virtual reality production partner during the NBA’s resumption of the 2019-20 season beginning July 30 in Orlando, Florida.

Ryot will produce NBA League Pass Virtual Reality games live from the league’s restart in the immersive video format that will be distributed to fans via the Facebook-owned Oculus Venues platform between July 31 and August 14.

As a result, Ryot takes over the NBA League Pass Virtual Reality production rights that had been previously held by NextVR. That company was acquired by Apple earlier this year for about $100m, less than the $115m in venture funding that NextVR previously raised for NextVR. 

The NBA retains an active partnership with Oculus, where the NBA League Pass Virtual Reality games are distributed, as well as a separate immersive media partnership with Intel.

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

Yahoo Sports, meanwhile, expanded its content development and distribution in partnership with the NBA. Among the specific planned efforts are additional distribution of the NBA League Pass out-of-market game package, rights to create sports betting content around the league, and the development of digital video programming focused on fantasy and betting to coincide with the conference finals and NBA Finals.

Yahoo Sports will also continue to produce the exclusive season-long fantasy game of the NBA, and will gain additional brand exposure on NBA television and digital media assets that are co-managed by the league and AT&T’s Turner Sports.

“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,” said Bill Koenig, NBA president of global content and media distribution.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but a prior deal between Verizon and the NBA struck in early 2018 was estimated at about $400m.

The Yahoo deal closely follows a separate pact the NBA struck with Olympic Entertainment Group to designate that company an official betting partner for the Baltics and Slovakia.