March 19, 2019
In the age of television, sports fans typically watched their games on the couch or, if they were lucky, in arenas or stadiums. With the advent of virtual reality, however, that paradigm is about to shift. The future of sports promises to be more accessible, interactive, personalized and immersive. The fan might still sit on the couch — or at an office desk — but technologies including the Oculus Go VR headset and Intel’s True View will deliver the game in exciting new angles and a 3D view of everything on the field or court.
The Wall Street Journal notes that, “True View tech is already being integrated into TV broadcasts, especially for National Football League and Premier League teams …. [and] if you have a VR headset, you can get TNT’s VR app for NBA games.” By downloading the March Madness Live VR app, fans can watch 21 NCAA tournament games, thanks to broadcasters CBS Sports and Turner among “many companies working on a better way.”
With Fast Break, which is part of the NCAA March Madness Live app, viewers can watch “all of the games’ best moments, seconds after they happen.” The app is available for “most streaming boxes and mobile devices,” and those who are not cable or CBS All Access subscribers get a three-hour viewing window.
Viewers might also “get the chance to choose who you want calling [the game] for you — the standard crew, the total homer crew that’s rooting as hard as you are, or maybe the movie-star crew.” In December, top Twitch videogamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins “teamed up with other streamers to offer his own take on a Thursday Night Football game.” Fans will also be able to easily access sports statistics and bios.
“A lot of times it’s about trying to find the behaviors people are already doing, and making them easier,” said CBS Sports Digital general manager Jeff Gerttula. “The most common one is, ‘I want to see the box score’.”
The future of sports will also be interactive: “You’ll be able to join a teeming mass of soccer fans in the chat section on Twitch, or offer real-time feedback on every play and moment.” WSJ predicts that, “fantasy games will get even bigger, as broadcasters of different sports try to copy features like the March Madness bracket.”
ESports will be another source of inspiration. “Our players jump in the chat, and they’ll engage with fans,” said NBA’s eSports 2K League general manager Brendan Donohue. As long-term contracts for the NFL, NBA, MLB and others expire, the leagues, however, are still dubious about digital distribution “in part because the digital options were unproven.” Those streaming sports are doubling-down on the basics: “Making the quality of the stream better,” said Gerttula. “Making it so it loads faster, it works every time.”