Broadcasters like BBC are Airing World Cup Using VR, Placing Viewers in Stadiums

Over the past two years, since the beginning of 2017, major broadcasters, television network operators, and sports associations have spent billions of dollars in an attempt to commercialize virtual reality (VR) and use the technology to provide a more realistic image of professional-level competition.

In 2017, for instance, NBA revealed its strategic partnership with $255 billion technology giant Intel to broadcast NBA basketball matches on TNT using VR technology. The application of VR by the NBA and Intel enabled TNT users to watch matches as if they are in the stadium, with surrounded sound and environment.

Al Saracevic, who experienced the NBA-Intel VR technology firsthand, explained:

“I watched part of an earlier playoff game from the press box at Oracle Arena with a VR headset on and it felt like I was standing on the court. Any closer and I would’ve been called for three seconds. This isn’t the first time games have been broadcast in this fashion. I remember trying out a similar broadcast experience two years ago, also at a Warriors game, and the sensation was the same: Wow.”

BBC Attempting Similar Concept for the World Cup

BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the public service and national broadcaster of the UK, has initiated a similar concept as the Intel-NBA-TNT trio partnership back in 2017 by airing the world cup using VR technology.

According to BBC, all 33 games from the BBC – including England’s Group G games against Tunisia and Panama, and the final from Moscow – will be aired on the BBC Sport VR 2018 FIFA World Cup app, which users can utilize to watch World Cup matches in the stadium, in virtual reality. Still, with the app and a VR headset, users will hear surrounded sound and experience the environment within the stadium, receiving maximum experience from the World Cup.

“Users will be able to watch the action direct from the stadium in a fully immersive environment – as if you were actually watching from inside the stadium in your own hospitality box,” said BBC.

Most broadcasters like BBC for the World Cup and TNT for the NBA utilize smartphone apps to broadcast matches in VR and users are able to obtain the full virtual reality experience with compatible VR headsets such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR.

Since most smartphones operate natively on Google’s Android and the Gear VR is specifically designed for Samsung mobile phones that operate on the Android, for Android users, the Samsung Gear VR will be a more viable selection.

Oculus Targeting World Cup Viewers

But, seeing the massive potential of VR application and commercialization in the World Cup given the competition’s hype and anticipation from an international audience, Oculus has been aggressively marketing its headset and VR technology towards World Cup viewers.

This week, Oculus reported that its Oculus Venues app will support free live streams of World Cup games via Fox Sports for US viewers and other national broadcasters for international viewers, to provide VR users a preview of the full VR experience the World Cup and other sports matches on the Oculus VR headset.

“The Venues app projects these matches into a theater-like space where anyone can watch and chat with an audience of Oculus avatars. This is the latest example of sports being streamed over VR. And it’ll be the next big test of whether live sports are a good match for VR,” the Oculus team said.

By Joseph Young

Joseph is a web developer and designer, writer and a passionate musician who loves to travel often. He’s worked as a researcher for a number of venture capital firms and as a freelancer designer for resorts and corporations in Korea and the Philippines.