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This year’s NBA Finals offers a star-studded cast of characters: reigning MVP Stephen Curry, legend LeBron James and, of course, a new Facebook Messenger Bot.
A highly anticipated rematch of last year’s clash between Mr. James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and Mr. Curry’s Golden State Warriors is set to tip off Thursday night. But before the players hit the court, the league is also unveiling a bot designed to help fans find their favorite highlights via Facebook Messenger.
If fans become friends with the new NBA bot on Facebook, they’ll be able to request specific highlights featuring any player from the two teams in the finals. For example, people can search for “Steph Curry,” and they’ll immediately have access to highlights featuring the Warriors’ three-point star. People can also set alerts, and the bot will notify them when clips have been added featuring their favorite players or teams.
The NBA tapped WSC Sports Technologies, a Tel Aviv-based company that says it is able to sift through sports highlights in real time, to build the app. WSC has been able to help the NBA put together 250,000 video packages this past season for distribution on its various social media outlets.
The NBA is rolling out a Facebook Messenger bot. PHOTO: NBA
For now, the new Facebook NBA bot, built specifically for this year’s finals, won’t be a revenue driver for the league.
“This is about marketing and learning,” said Melissa Brenner, the NBA’s senior vice president of digital media. “This is a new distribution mechanism, and we want to help fans get highlights quickly and easily.”
But if it takes off, it is possible that the NBA could add highlights from all of its teams next year (even the Knicks), and the bot could eventually feature ads or let fans buy tickets and merchandise, said people familiar with the matter.
The bot follows along with the league’s overall digital-forward strategy, which embraces marketing the league to fans on various social channels. For example, Twitter’s Vine is littered with six-second NBA clips. And league commissioner Adam Silver recently appeared at YouTube’s Brandcast event, praising the platform’s ability to reach users in markets across the globe.
In addition to the new bot, the NBA has been experimenting with Facebook Live.
The league has produced dozens of live streams on the platform during the recent playoffs, ranging from press conferences to player interviews. The plan is to host at least 20 Facebook Live streams during the playoffs.
And while Facebook Live and Facebook bots are relatively unproven—the social networkrolled out this chatbot capability in April—the NBA sees great value in being early. “If you don’t try it early, you could be left behind,” said Ms. Brenner.
Fans will be able to watch clips featuring LeBron James through a Facebook bot. PHOTO:NBA
Even with all of the chatter over younger audiences preferring to consume content on mobile devices over live TV, Ms. Brenner noted that the league hasn’t seen any diminished interest in its broadcasts. In fact, Monday’s night’s thrilling game 7 matchup between the Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder on TNT resulted in the league’s largest cable audience ever.“All of this has proven to be additive,” said Ms. Brenner.
This article was originally published on June 2 at http://www.wsj.com/articles/nba-launches-a-facebook-messenger-bot-for-the-finals-1464886391