Want to catch LeBron on your smartphone?
Verizon is hoping all-things-hoops will be a major draw for its nascent ad-supported go90 mobile video service.
The National Basketball Association will dish up daily highlights, original programming and access (through a subscription) to live out-of-market games via NBA League Pass on the go90 platform, which tipped off last month.
It’s all part of a marketing and content partnership arrangement between the league and Verizon that is being announced on Wednesday. The deal is valued at more than $400 million and runs for three years, according to a person familiar with the terms who was not authorized to speak publicly. The non-exclusive arrangement frees the NBA to shop content to other streaming outlets.
In choosing Verizon, the NBA ditches its most recent marketing partner, Sprint. The league has also worked in the past with T-Mobile.
Go90 is targeted at the Gen Z and Millennial generations, about 75% of whom turn to mobile first as their video platform of choice. The app and service are free, and a Verizon cellular contract is not a requirement; you can access Go90 via any U.S. carrier or on Wi-Fi.
“The NBA has done a tremendous job of building audiences across those two segments,” says Brian Angiolet, senior vice president of consumer marketing at Verizon.
Go90 launched with more than 8,000 titles, episodes of popular TV shows and more than 35 exclusive original series. Verizon adds it has 65 content partners representing 290 brands, a list that includes VICE News, HuffPost Live, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Machinima, Maker, and ESPN’s 30 for 30.
But live sports are a major driver for go90. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 32% of sports fans reported interest in watching sports live on their mobile devices, up from 20% in 2010.
Verizon recently struck a deal with beIN Sports, an international sports network that broadcasts live soccer matches. And Verizon has a longstanding mobile relationship with the National Football League, which would seem to be a digital model for what the NBA has in store.
As always, highlights of slam dunks from LeBron James and long range jumpers from Stephen Curry will be all over digital and social media and the Web. But the NBA’s programming packages on go90 is likely to include exclusive behind the scenes footage from the All-Star game and playoffs, possibly segments with on-air NBA broadcasters from Turner, as well as highlight packages that have been “shot in an edgier way,” says Bill Koenig, NBA President Global Media Distribution. Fans on go90 will be able to share clips by text or on Facebook or Twitter.
The go90 app is available on iOS and Android. Koenig says one of the things that attracted the NBA to go90 is the fact that the service is made available across all the major wireless carriers in the U.S., not just Verizon.
Verizon may offer promotional packages to its own customers, though details on pricing for the NBA League Pass are still being worked out. Verizon is just beginning to roll out NBA content for go90; it isn’t clear how soon League Pass games will be made available on the service.
League Pass is already available through other platforms. For its part, the NBA charges $6.99 for a single out of market game, $119.99 to follow a single out of market team, and $199.99 for more than a 1000 out of market games across all the teams.
As part of the marketing deal, Verizon becomes the Official Wireless Service Provider of the NBA, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), NBA Development League (NBA D-League) and USA Basketball (USAB). And one of the NBA marquee events, the Slam Dunk contest, will be known as the “Verizon Slam Dunk.” Verizon will also be a major sponsor of the NBA All-Star Balloting Program, NBA Draft, NBA Summer League and the Jr. NBA.
While the Verizon deal may be good for avid basketball fans, it is doubtful cheers are being heard at ESPN and TNT, the outlets which currently broadcast the NBA on television.
The NBA has been doubling down on digital. Just last week, the league streamed an opening night game between the defending champion Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans in virtual reality.