NBA to broadcast one game a week in virtual reality

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If you’re already playing “Sonar” or “Feral Rites” or just “The Lab” in virtual reality, why not get a closeup look at Stephen Curry draining a deep three, or Rudy Gobert rejecting a shot at the rim. And I don’t mean in a video game.

The NBA is going to start broadcasting one game a week in virtual reality, the league announced Thursday. It has partnered with NextVR to broadcast at least one League Pass game a week in VR — the NBA is the first major professional league to do it (although NextVR did already do the U.S. Open tennis tournament, The Masters, and other big events).

If you have an NBA League Pass and a Samsung Gear VR headset (or compatible smartphone) you can pay to watch the games — but the first one is free. On Oct. 27 the Spurs visiting the Sacramento Kings fans can watch Kawhi Leonard shut down Ben McLemore in virtual reality for free.

From the NBA’s press release:

Fans with a Samsung Gear VR headset and a compatible Samsung smartphone can experience the free preview by accessing the NBA Channel within the NextVR app. Later this season, the offering will be expanded to support additional VR headset options.

The weekly games will be available as part of the NBA LEAGUE PASS full season package. Whether purchased through a third party distributor or directly through the NBA, fans will be able to authenticate their accounts by inputting their NBA LEAGUE PASS login credentials (obtained at NBA.com or the NBA App) within NextVR’s app.

The VR broadcasts will be fully produced with dedicated announcers, multiple unmanned camera angles and optimized graphics. Game breaks will be filled with in-venue entertainment, behind-the-scenes footage from the arena and VR-specific commentary.

Sounds promising.

I’m not about to speculate on the popularity of this, but smart move by the NBA to get out in front of this and try it. You have to love that the NBA is adventurous and will push the market, the NFL probably won’t try this until 2036.