NESN, the Red Sox-owned regional sports network, announced Tuesday that it will team with Intel to produce four games in virtual reality. The partnership began Tuesday night with a Red Sox-Blue Jays game that wound up lasting 19 innings and will continue Wednesday with Boston’s game against Toronto at Fenway Park and then for Friday and Saturday’s matchups against the Rays.
NESN subscribers can access the virtual-reality broadcasts through the NESNGo VR App, using select Samsung phones and virtual-reality headsets. Via a press release, here is what the VR experience will feature:
Throughout the game, NESN viewers watching via these VR headsets will be able to choose any of four locations at Fenway, or select a mode that automatically switches between seven locations for the viewer. In addition, real-time statistics will display behind viewers in the 360-degree landscape.
Fans will continue to hear the NESN telecast and see HD replays. Every night, the VR experience will include a unique camera location, usually in a spot fans cannot normally access.
Intel has been producing virtual-reality baseball telecasts since June, as part of a three-year agreement with Major League Baseball, airing a national game of the week every Tuesday through Intel True VR.
Given that the NESN partnership was not announced until the day of the first game (which doubled as Intel’s national game of the week), it seems that the network and its partner are less interested in maximizing viewership and more interested in giving virtual reality a test-run. VR has crept into coverage of the Olympics, the MLS and the NCAA Tournament, among other events, but as far as we know NESN is the first regional network to employ it.
Virtual reality is obviously far from being a regular part of how we watch sports, but with more and more networks offering more and more events, it does look as if VR has a shot at gaining more traction than, say, 3-D TV ever did.