NBC, Samsung, OBS Team Up to Offer VR Olympics Coverage

NBC plans to release about 85 hours of virtual reality content of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, marking the first time that the Olympics will be available as a VR experience. Participating cable/satellite operators will make the content available exclusively to their pay-TV subscribers on Samsung devices. Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) will do the actual production of the VR content, which will then be supplied to NBC Olympics. Among the content to be made available are the opening and closing ceremonies.

According to Variety, other programming available as a VR experience will be “men’s basketball (including the semifinals and final), gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing and fencing, along with highlight packages of those sports,” all available the day after the event in question.

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Production venues include the Maracana Stadium for the opening ceremony and Copacabana Beach for beach volleyball. The VR content will begin August 6, the day after the opening ceremony, and end August 22, the day after the Games end.

“The world’s greatest sporting event is always a showcase for cutting-edge technology, and we’re thrilled to partner with Samsung and OBS to bring our viewers even closer to compelling Olympic action with virtual reality,” said NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel.

OBS and Samsung, which is the official smartphone partner of the Rio Games, first tested producing VR content at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Viewers wanting to access NBC’s Summer Olympics VR content will need a Samsung Galaxy smartphone compatible with Gear VR and the NBC Sports app; VR programming will also be available on the NBC Sports app, via TV Everywhere, and only after authenticating subscription through the pay-TV provider.

NBC has a history of adopting new technology for Olympics coverage. In 2012, the broadcaster inked a 3D distribution deal with Panasonic.