March Madness will take over your television, but this year college basketball could take over your reality, too. Fox and virtual reality company NextVR will broadcast the 2016 Big East Tournament in VR, for the first time ever.
The quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games of the three-day 2016 Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament will be in virtual reality starting March 10. The March 10 slate of games will be the first broadcasted in virtual reality, starting with No. 1 seed Villanova versus the winner of tonight’s matchup between No. 8 Georgetown and No. 9 DePaul.
2016 is barely two months old and Fox has already been pushing to change the way we watch sports. Last month, Fox Sports and NextVR announced a five year deal to broadcast live sports in virtual reality. Days after the announcement, Fox Sports broadcasted the 58th annual Daytona 500 in VR for the first time ever.
According to Eric Shanks, FOX Sports President, COO & Executive Producer, Fox’s recent push to broadcast sports in VR is due to increased fan interest in the technology. “Our relationship with NextVR comes at a time as the demand to enjoy these amazing ‘like being there’ experiences expands,” Shanks said in the press release announcing the Big East Tournament news.
If the past year is any indication, Shanks and Fox Sports may be ahead of a pack of major networks looking to get into the VR realm. Turner Sports, parent company of TBS and NBA TV, partnered with NextVR to broadcast the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors facing the New Orleans Pelicans in VR last October. NextVR has tested the technology with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and also aired last year’s U.S. Open in VR.
The Big East Tournament games will also be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1 with the championship game also airing on Fox. Fans will be able to watch the NCAA tournament games in VR via Samsung Gear VR headset. All the games will be in the FOX Sports section on the free NextVR app.
When a ratings juggernaut like ESPN starts losing millions of subscribers, a new kind of immersive viewing be the only way to get those eyeballs to stay.