Want to catch a pass from Steph Curry? Or play on the same court as LeBron James? NBA Digital and NextVR are working to provide fans with an exciting digital experience through once a week virtual reality games.
This multiyear deal comes at the heels of innovation to excite fans through creative experiences. Each game will have announcers, multiple camera angles, and VR-optimized graphics.
“The NBA has always been at the forefront of innovation. In our early discussions, they emphasized to us that one of their first priorities is to keep fans engaged and bring them closer to the action than ever before,” said Danny Keens, vice president of content, NextVR. “Everyone in the sports industry is competing for the same eyeballs. We have to keep fans interested and find compelling new ways to experience the game. We have combined the best elements of in-person game viewing and the traditional televised broadcasts to create the perfect experience. Basketball is ideally suited for VR because of the nature of the sport, the size of the arena and court, and the intimacy with the players.”
In order to get access to the content, fans have to own a full-season NBA League Pass subscription, which can be purchased directly or through a cable provider. The games must be viewed using Samsung’s Gear VR and the NextVR app.
“We are bringing the audience closer to the action and experience of the game. Traditionally fans watch on a flat screen, and now NextVR is bringing fans into the real-life environment,” Keens said. “NextVR is layering additional context that sports fans demand on top of the experience, giving consumers all of the things they want at a game that may not be accessible. This includes accessibility to the scoreboard, commentary, real-time stats, shot clock, game clock, surround sound experience, etc. We’re very excited about this for multiple reasons: it’s live, it’s a NBA game and it’s going to be broadcast every single week. We are doing our best to push VR into mass market. Since there are hundreds of millions of NBA fans, we’re hoping that this will prompt fans who haven’t tried VR yet to go out and get a headset.”
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The NBA created a 25-minute VR documentary last month called “Follow My Lead: The Story of the 2016 NBA Finals,” which was narrated by Michael B. Jordan.
The NFL has also made its foray into VR with NFL Films and Google Jump to create a nine-part VR series shot in the format for YouTube. The series will ‘spend a week with the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line as they prepare for the upcoming matchup and gain exclusive access to the Eagles bench and sideline on game day.’ Each of the 360-degree videos will be available to view on Google’s Daydream headset when it releases later this year.