Can’t get tickets to Thursday nights opening NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Pelicans? No problem. The NBA has struck a partnership with NextVR to take fans as close to court-side as possible without actually being there in person.
Anyone who owns a Samsung Gear VR headset can watch a VR-optimized live stream of the match (scheduled to air on the NextVR app live at 7:30 p.m. PT on Oct. 29). The stream can be watched for free and the app can be downloaded from the Oculus Home store, an app store for VR users.
NextVR will use strategically positioned cameras to capture live action from as many angles as possible in order to provide fans with a virtual view from the court-side vantage point, according to the NBA.
VR has, so far, been used in a very limited capacity for live sports. Earlier in the summer, NextVR live-streamed a soccer match between Manchester United and FC Barcelona. There were no statistics immediately available on the number of VR streams for the match.
In 2014, the Sacramento Kings issued two VR experiences of post-season games, and the NBA also released small VR segments of its All-Star game last season. Neither of those project were streamed live.
Sports are just the latest genre to be added to the growing number of VR projects. In 2015 alone, VR content penetrated documentary projects, movies, fashion, classical music and even politics (earlier this fall, CNN streamed the democratic primary debate in virtual reality, also through the NextVR app).
Following the live stream, the NBA game will be available to watch again on the NextVR app.
According to a rep for the NBA, no advertisers are attached to the VR livestream. During commercial breaks for those watching the game on linear TV, virtual-reality viewers will instead watch the in-court entertainment, such as audience contests and dance performances.
The rep told StreamDaily the NBA does not have any projections or goals for viewership, but added that the association will be evaluating the technical success of the project with an eye on future 360 broadcasts.