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La Liga expands Microsoft Azure partnership for OTT services and ML enhancements

La Liga, the foremost Spanish football league, has expanded its partnership with Microsoft Azure to focus on machine learning (ML), over the top (OTT) services, as well as augmented reality.

The two companies promise to ‘digitally transform the sports experience globally’, and are focusing on improvements for fans, broadcasters and stadia operations alike.

Azure Event Hubs and Azure Data Lake, as well as Azure’s machine learning tools, will provide ‘data-enhanced match coverage’ as well as personalized OTT streaming options, such as camera angle selection in matches. The integration between Azure and data and analytics platform Databricks will also be utilised; the latter completed the hyperscaler hat-trick, in football parlance, with Google Cloud integration back in February.

The OTT platform, for broadcasters, will utilise Dynamics 365, Power BI and SQL, built on Azure, while Microsoft is also looking to leverage 5G technologies for ‘unified in-stadium experiences.’

La Liga has its own technology arm, LaLiga Tech, which aims to offer solutions to the media and entertainment industry. The continued collaboration is described as ‘key’ to the growth of the tech arm, packing a full range of existing technologies into a commercial offering for the sports industry. This runs from match-day stats and analytics, to ‘content protection’.

“We are thrilled to expand our partnership with La Liga as it makes further bold moves to deepen engagement with its hundreds of millions of fans, while bringing new business models to market with Microsoft cloud and AI capabilities,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, Microsoft EVP and president of global sales, marketing and operations in a statement.

Sporting franchises and arbitors are an increasingly key customer base for many of the largest cloud providers, not just for archive digitisation but the utilisation of machine learning (ML) for gleamed stats and fan experiences. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has several major sporting clients, not least the rival Bundesliga in Germany, as well as Formula 1 and NASCAR. Major League Baseball, however, moved to Google Cloud earlier this year.

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