Live action sporting events are a logical focus for the VR industry, giving spectators a seat they’d normally be apprehensive about spending the money on. We’ve gotten boxing matches, college basketball, and now the University of Notre Dame football program is partnering with NextVR to bring college football to VR. NextVR will be providing virtual reality highlights of the Notre Dame vs Stanford game from multiple points on the field and we chatted on the phone with Danny Keens, Vice President of Content & Partnership at NextVR, about the development.
“Sports broadcasting in general has always been about meeting the demands of the fans,” Keens says. “VR has the ability to meet the demand of those fans like no other medium. This is by far the most exciting, complex, and challenging thing I’ve ever done in my career and I say that because it’s really hard to make predictions about what the future looks like. We’re talking about transformational change here, in broadcasting.”
NextVR was originally founded in 2009 and specializes in VR broadcasts with partners such as FOX Sports, Live Nation, HBO, Turner Sports, and CNN. They’ve broadcasted the US Open, the opening match for Germany’s Bundesliga competition, and other events. They can get their work done on a fully equipped VR production truck, the first of its kind. The company recently secured an $80 million series of funding this past August, a development that we suspected would likely lead to broadcast rights for more events. This particular partnership, however, was a long brewing idea brokered by NBC Sports.
“Telebroadcasting has always been a one-way conversation in a sense. Television has always just spoken to you,” Keens reflects. “I truly believe over the next couple of years we can get to a place where broadcasting becomes a two way street where you can interact, you can engage, [and] you can ultimately have conversations with people during the experience. That’s really where we want to take it: Make broadcasting and viewing sport engaging in a way that we’ve never seen in history.”
Keens reveals that, later in the month, viewers will also be able to see exclusive pre-game activities on NextVR such as tailgating, the player walk to Notre Dame stadium, and more hosted by Hall of Fame wide receiver Tim Brown.
“The purpose of that centerpiece is to really try to encapsulate everything that is so great about Notre Dame football. It’s not just about the game, it’s about the sites and sounds that happen around the game,” Keens said.
Tune in to the NBC Sports channel on the NextVR application for Samsung Gear via the Oculus Home store on Oct. 15 to see VR highlights of the Notre Dame vs. Stanford football game that airs at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.