San Francisco 49ers Planning VR Push in 2016

by Joe Durbin • February 5th, 2016

Robert G. Alberino Jr., VP and executive producer for the San Francisco 49ers, is planning to integrate more VR content into the franchise’s content strategy during the 2016 season. He reveals in an interview with UploadVR that the combine, training camp, and other behind-the-scenes moments will be brought to fans through immersive 360 videos.

Alberino first started thinking about VR six months ago and now – following a successful 360 production of new coach Chip Kelly’s inaugural press conference created through Zeality – he is actively working to make VR a cornerstone of the organization’s game plan for the 2016 season.

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Robert G. Alberino Jr.

“Were gonna have the combine and the draft and mini-camps and all kinds of wonderful things that we are gonna give you a chance to see through VR…We would love to do stuff up in our control room on game days to let fans see what it’s like in the Levi’s Stadium control room…We are definitely gonna do some things on game day,” Alberino said.

Alberino’s plan also includes the introduction of content that will amplify the standard game-watching experience as well.

“We want to put cameras in the tunnels, throughout the stadium, and even on the field at some point,” he said.

When it comes to production, Alberino’s plan is to do as much of the creative work in-house as he can.

“We have a full-fledged production team … and truth be told, we’re actually thinking about putting together our own rigs. We’ve experimented and our freelance shooters have brought in some really good stuff, but it would be ideal to have our own [360] camera setups so that we’re free to produce exactly what we think would be fun for fans to see,” Alberino said.

Alberino is interested in pursuing this hardware solution through a partnership with Sony due to a preexisting relationship between the two organizations.

From a distribution standpoint, Alberino’s goal is to simply study the industry before determining exactly which video platform or VR headset on which to make this content available. However, he is determined to explore all options thoroughly and to make the franchise’s VR content as accessible as possible to fans.

“We want to be first in line when it comes to football and VR. It’s a huge opportunity and there’s no doubt in my mind it is going to be an enormous part of this sport going forward,” Alberino said.

Alberino is not alone in this belief. Companies like IM360 and NextVR made live 360 sports broadcasts a priority and big backers are agreeing with the approach. Time Warner and Comcast are investors in NextVR and IM360’s parent company Immersive Media was recently acquired by VFX juggernaut Digital Domain.

VR can offer a lot to the sports world from a spectator’s perspective. There may come a day where all one needs for floor seats to the NBA finals is a headset and the appropriate application.

That’s a future that many, including Alberino, would love to see.

“If you knew you had an inside pass to these teams what would you do with it. It’s like a toy we’re dying to play with and we still haven’t even unwrapped it completely,” Alberino said.

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