Virtual reality is starting to be used in more and more sports broadcasts, and Fox Sports appears to be particularly interested in the field. Fox signed a five-year deal with startup NextVR in February, and they’ve broadcast the Daytona 500, a Premier Boxing Champions fight, the Big East men’s basketball tournament and the U.S. Open together so far.
Next on the agenda? The opening match of the Bundesliga, Germany’s top soccer league, which will take place between Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen Friday (August 26) at 2:20 p.m. Eastern. Here are some key quotes from Fox’s release:
“Virtual reality will allow fans globally to experience the Bundesliga opening match on a platform they’ve never experienced,” Dr Holger Blask, Director Audiovisual Rights and Member of the Executive Committee. “The Bundesliga is excited to bring new exciting technology to live sporting events.”
…“We are thrilled to continue our relationship with FOX Sports and for the opportunity to produce a Bundesliga match,” said Brad Allen, Executive Chairman of NextVR. “We are excited about the growing diversity of NextVR’s content portfolio as we continue to provide international sports fans with a wide array of options including the opening game of the Bundesliga season.”
Football fans experiencing the match with NextVR’s unparalleled high-definition technology platform will feel inches from the action as they witness every galloping run, free kick and tackle from an unmatched vantage point. This virtual reality event includes live audio commentary by former American professional soccer player and Bundesliga player, Heath Pearce, as well as FOX Sports soccer commentator Mark Rogondino.
“The pipeline for captivating content in virtual reality keeps growing as we work with NextVR, and the Bundesliga match is an opportunity to provide fans with immersive content in the world’s most popular sport,” said David Nathanson, FOX Sports Head of Business Operations “Providing early adopters of virtual reality with content in new markets allows fans globally to be a part of the action and take their viewing experiences to the next level.”
There will be seven total cameras capturing the action, and this will be available in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Asia and select countries in Europe. It will be available for free in the Fox Sports portal on the NextVR platform, but you’ll need a compatible Samsung VR headset. It will be interesting to see how much traction this one gains; soccer could theoretically be a great sport for a virtual reality experience that makes a viewer feel almost in the game, but will that catch on compared to watching the conventional bird’s-eye view of the action? We’ll find out.
Fox and NextVR seem pretty confident that this technology’s going to become even more important in the future of sports broadcasting, and this is another logical step for them. However, there are significant costs to doing an event this way, and the VR audience isn’t exactly massive at the moment. We’ll see how much traction this gains, but it’s clear that Fox is very committed to doing a variety of events in VR. Soccer’s just the latest one they’ve expanded to.