Virtual reality is officially a reality in the NBA.
The league Thursday will announce a multiyear partnership with virtual reality company NextVR, ushering in a wild new world of hoops viewing that they hope rivals the courtside experience — and is a whole lot cheaper.
At least once a week, subscribers to NBA League Pass who purchase all the necessary equipment will be able to see a fully produced game in live virtual reality (starting with the Oct.27 game between the Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs that comes during a free trial period).
This is a multilayered offering, with multiple camera angles, commentators who are exclusive to the VR telecast, VR instant replays, graphics and the like. By season’s end, all 30 NBA teams will have had at least one game aired in VR.
These are uncharted technological waters, as no professional sports league has ever offered regularly scheduled virtual reality broadcasts (NBA Digital, which is co-managed by Turner Sports and the NBA, is heading these efforts). But more than that, it’s the latest sign of the NBA’s global growth.
“We’ve got fans all over the world,” said Jeff Marsilio, the NBA’s vice president of global media distribution. “We broadcast our games in over 210 countries now, and these are passionate fans. But for most of them, they’re not able — for logistical reasons — to attend a game in person, let alone sit courtside.
“So we do feel that VR provides the potential, if we do it right, to be the next best thing to that in-person experience. But in order to get there, we’ve got work to do. That’s why we felt that it was time to make a commitment.”
There are two truths about the NBA fan experience that make this kind of platform potentially powerful.