Amazon Deal With Maple Leaf Sports Puts Walmart Behind the Eight Ball on Streaming

Insert your favorite sports analogy here as Amazon shoots and scores in a way that archrival Walmart may find hard to beat, with the eCommerce giant signing a multifaceted pact with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) for new streaming sports experiences.

It’s the latest serve in a never-ending game of one-upmanship between the two titans.

Walmart volleyed Tuesday (Feb. 22) announcing its spring 2022 fashion line with celebrated fashion designer Brandon Maxwell at the creative helm.

Read more: Walmart Launches Spring 2022 Lines, the First Created by Brandon Maxwell

The cage match touches everything from apparel to grocery to healthcare, and now, gaming.

It’s a “game on” redux in 2022 as Amazon veers to streaming sports, playing on a field that Walmart is unfamiliar with — streaming TV — giving Amazon some major advantages.

Amazon announced in a Wednesday (Feb. 23) press release that it is teaming with MLSE, with Amazon Web Services (AWS) now providing artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and deep learning cloud services to the corporate parent of teams, including the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, among others, along with owning or operating venues, including Canada’s Scotiabank Arena and Coca-Cola Coliseum.

Working largely with MLSE Digital Labs, the sports business optimization and gaming arm of the conglomerate will tap into Amazon Rekognition for automated image and video analysis and Amazon Kinesis for collecting, processing and analyzing video and data streams in real time.

It’s a multi-pronged play for MLSE, which will use AWS cloud capabilities and algorithms to analyze game footage “to better prepare for crucial decisions during games” for teams, while offering data-based insights to inform new fan experiences at venues and via online gaming.

“MLSE’s goal is to create a more powerful sense of community through platforms such as Digital Arena (also known as ‘Game Time’ in the MLSE teams’ mobile apps),” according to the press release. “The platform offers fans an interactive, second-screen experience where fans can share and chat with other fans, alumni and team mascots. The experience also includes a virtual T-shirt toss and trivia game, allowing fans to connect with each other.”

See also: Amazon Mulling Daily Sports Studio Shows

Lacking a Prime Video service of its own in a sense benches Walmart from much of this action.

The retail titan is continuing with its Esports Arena partnership that started small in 2018 and now has at least 18 locations nationwide listed on the Walmart site.

Also going the sponsorship route, the chain is sponsoring the Rewired Fest set to take place in October at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

According to its website, “the Rewired Festival powered by Walmart is an immersive eSports and tech experience designed to inspire and encourage young minds to pursue passions in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. Rewired’s online eSports qualifier tournament kicks off with unbeatable prizes and leads up to our in-person championship finale and two-day festival celebration in northwest Arkansas, featuring retro gameplay, music and action sports.”

Walmart widely sponsors video gaming tournaments and provides prize money to winners.

Rumors surfaced in 2021 that Walmart has been considering — and possibly working on — its own streaming gaming platform, codenamed “Project Storm,” since 2019.

Gaming site The Business of Esports reported in June that “Details of Walmart’s unannounced cloud gaming service, Project Storm, have recently been revealed. A piece of evidence in the Apple-Epic Games lawsuit showed that Walmart attempted to pitch this service to Epic Games so it could get the rights to Fortnite.”

“It is not clear when the service was going to be made public,” the report stated. “According to emails reviewed in court, a beta version of the Project Storm was scheduled to be launched in 2019.”

Walmart acquired cloud visualization firm LiquidSky in 2018 as part of this effort, although to date Walmart has yet to announce plans for a streaming platform.

Read also: Walmart Meets Meta in the Metaverse

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