Watch NBA Games in Virtual Reality

Every Tuesday Vancouver Basketball takes a look at our favourite basketball related products. This week we feature the future of watching of NBA games live.

Courtesy of Sport Techie

During the CES conference in Las Vegas, the overarching theme for what was going to take a major leap in commercial viability was virtual reality. Virtual reality headsets were everywhere and ranged from applications in medicine and education to live sports broadcasting.

One of the companies leading virtual reality’s impact on the sports world in NextVR. NextVR announced last week at CES that they have been working with Qualcomm to test its new 820 chip, which has been inserted in their new cell phones for purchase this quarter. Through utilizing the virtual reality capabilities in the new phones, the experience has been even more amplified for the consumer as they will not only have an intimate view of the game venue they are watching from many miles away, but the device now will be able to have head-tracking capabilities and a 4K display that will bring a dynamic view for the consumer and will be a step ahead of other devices like the Google cardboard.

NextVR has worked most extensively with the NBA in no small part due to having Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber as an investor. The company teamed up to show the Warriors season opener this season in VR as well as the Christmas day showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While in Las Vegas last week, we were able to also sample the NextVR virtual reality experience when they had a private showing of next a Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics game, which was produced in collaboration with the NBA and Turner Sports, Thursdayat CES.

During the broadcast, NextVR used two rigs with a camera and placed one of them behind one of the baskets and the other at the scorer’s table at the United Center giving the consumer a view right from center court. To say this was an eye-opening expierience is an understatement. We were situated 2000 miles away from the game’s location in Chicago, but had a dynamic 180-degree view of the game from one of the best seat locations in the 21,000 seat arena. All guests at the viewing event also watched with the Samsung VR headset.

NextVR Co-Founder David Cole spoke to us about his thoughts with using virtual reality to grow the NBA’s popularity with international fans.

“The NBA has 100s of millions of fans worldwide with many that will never be able to attend a game in person. We can bring the experience over to them wherever they are located and we know that it is something that fans will want to watch. We don’t need to do a focus group to see if fans want to watch NBA basketball in VR, we know that the market is out there and ready to watch our product.”


With virtual reality’s almost inevitable popularity it will be extremely important for teams to start preparing for a world that has already added challenges of getting fans to attend through high-quality big screen televisions with a crisp quality picture. There is now an impending reality that fans anywhere in the world whether it be someone who lives across the street from the arena or halfway around the world will be able to sit courtside with a 180 degree view of game action. With the processes so new, it is a little early to tell how this will impact pricing and the in-game experience, but it is something that will change the way teams do business going forward in 2016 and beyond.

Vivek Ranadivé, owner of the Sacramento Kings said during the Turner Sports panel last week at CES that live streaming video and virtual reality experiences will only serve to make the live game attendance that much more attractive. Mark Cuban, who was also a panelist mentioned the fact that there is only a certain amount of seats in the stadium and the in-game experience will always be superior due to being able to feel the excitement of the crowd and feeling the peaks and valleys of any NBA game where it is actually playing out.

Virtual Reality will no doubt continue to be a disruptive force in the sports industry and in hearing from NextVR, it doesn’t seem to be that far away from being produced on a large scale. Cole mentioned to us that we should hear sometime in the middle of the year about their scaling efforts and whether for example we might be able to see all 82 Warriors games in the NBA Regular season as opposed to single events like opening night or Christmas Day.

“Experience in VR where you want to be”, said Cole. “We know what the fans want, we have been talking to the broadcast partners and we are ready to go to scale. At this point it is more business engineering than any issues on a technological front.”

What we do know now it that virtual reality is poised to be the future of sports broadcasts and the future will be here sooner than we think.