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NBA, Twitch reach deal on 2K League streaming rights

The NBA and Twitch expanded their partnership Wednesday, announcing a multiyear agreement for Twitch to live stream all of the fledgling 2K League’s games.

The news had been expected for some time, as Twitch broadcast the 2K League’s inaugural draft at Madison Square Garden earlier this month, and a partnership between the two is a natural fit given Twitch’s prominent position in the video gaming community.

“This is a groundbreaking partnership for the NBA 2K League,” said NBA 2K League Managing Director Brendan Donohue in a statement. “Twitch shares our innovative spirit and commitment to putting the gaming community first, and is the ideal home to provide our passionate 2K, NBA and esports fans around the world with the opportunity to catch all the excitement of our inaugural season.”

The deal means Twitch (owned by Amazon, whose CEO, Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post) will stream up to 199 games during the upcoming 2K League season, which begins May 1. That will include 17 weeks worth of matchups, including three in-season tournaments, playoffs and the league finals. The inaugural season will run through August.

Like the draft show, which featured a host and analysts including former WNBA star Swin Cash, the streams will also feature live commentary, just like an NBA game broadcast. In time, Twitch said in the release promoting the announcement, it would build out extensions to enhance its users’ experience with the platform while watching the 2K League.

Twitch did something similar in its other partnership with the NBA, which came in December when the service began streaming up to six NBA G League games per week.

“From video games to real games, the NBA continues to innovate around basketball when it comes to engaging with the Twitch community,” said Justin Dellario, Twitch’s head of esports programs. “By partnering with Twitch for the NBA 2K League, that pioneering spirit will continue to be reflected when we elevate this latest entry to the world of competitive gaming with interactive features and our global stage.”

The 2K League draft earlier this month saw 102 players - beginning with Artreyo “Dimez” Boyd, who was taken by Mavs Gaming - drafted onto the 17 teams participating in the inaugural season of the 2K League. At a news conference preceding the draft, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league could expand to all 30 NBA markets within three years and didn’t rule out the possibility of overseas expansion, as well.

The games will all be held in one centralized location — expected to be either New York or Los Angeles - with the players on each team living in the cities in which their teams are located.