Fox Sports is getting into virtual reality, and NASCAR fans with the right VR equipment will have the chance to check it out this weekend. Fox has signed a five-year deal with NextVR for a variety of virtual-reality broadcasts across sports, following successful tests over the last year (including during January’s Premier Boxing Champions matches), and the first use under this new contract will come at Sunday’s Daytona 500. Sean O’Kane of The Verge has the details on what the broadcast will be like:
The VR broadcast will be filmed in three different perspectives: the start / finish line, the middle of the Daytona infield, and next to the pit crews while they perform pit stops. (Sadly, no in-car cameras.) There will also be audio commentary and live graphics showing who’s leading the race.
There are, of course a few caveats. For one, you’ll need a GearVR, so Google Cardboard users are out of luck. Also, viewers won’t be able to choose which perspective they’re watching from. They’ll only be able to watch the one main feed in the NextVR app, and the broadcast will rotate between the different perspectives automatically. The broadcast also won’t be fully immersive — rather, viewers will be presented with a 180-degree field of view they can explore. It will be in 3D, which is different from some of the other “flat” 360-degree broadcasts that NextVR has done in the past.
GearVR is Samsung’s VR device, which sells for about $99 U.S. and works with compatible Samsung phones (the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, and Galaxy S6 edge+). So, while the cost isn’t that prohibitive, it’s only available to those who have the right phone. If you do, though, the Daytona broadcast will be available for free through the NextVR app (which is also free). There’s also a growing lineup of VR content out there, and it sounds like Fox is committed to using this technology more across sports going forwards. Here’s what Fox Sports president Eric Shanks said about the NextVR deal in their release:
“It’s all about delivering something new and exciting for our viewers,” said Eric Shanks, FOX Sports president, COO & executive producer. “Virtual reality is the next great frontier in immersive experiences for fans across a wide variety of sports. It’s a rapidly changing technology, and this deal with NextVR positions us to be on the front lines for years to come.”
FOX Sports and NextVR have tested live virtual reality broadcasts in 2015 at the Auto Club 400 NASCAR race in Fontana, Calif., and the United States Open Golf Championship from Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.
Future virtual reality programming on FOX Sports will be announced soon and available on the NextVR portal, including within a dedicated FOX Sports section.
Broadcasting innovations are always hit-and-miss, as ESPN found out this week, and next-generation technology can be particularly so. Will VR technology become embraced and commonplace, like HDTV, or an expensive, eventually-shuttered diversion, like 3DTV? Fox and NextVR seem to be betting on the former here; we’ll find out if they’re right.