You’ll soon be able to get closer to NBA playoff action, as well as your favorite team. Intel on Tuesday announced a multiyear partnership with Turner Sports to bring live NBA on TNT games from the second half of the 2017-2018 NBA regular season to virtual reality. The partnership is also aimed at making history by bringing live games from the NBA playoffs to virtual reality for the first time ever.
Intel’s VR foray into live NBA games will begin at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles on the weekend of February 16 to 18. Following All-Star Game weekend, Intel will bring VR to “marquee games” from NBA on TNT in the second half of the NBA regular season. The schedule is full of must-watch games, including a 2017 Western Conference Finals rematch between the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors.
Will Funk, executive vice president of property marketing and corporate partnerships for Turner Sports, told Digital Trends that Intel will also handle the VR live-stream for numerous games during the 2018 NBA playoffs. During the 2017 NBA playoffs, TNT broadcasted multiple games from every round, including the conference championship. “We will do at least some of the conference finals games [in virtual reality],” Funk said.
Sports in VR have been generally underwhelming, but being able to choose different perspectives around the arena to watch the game from has been its saving grace. Production company NextVR has been live-streaming NBA games in VR since the 2016-2017 NBA season , allowing fans to watch games from a courtside seat, under the basket, and occasionally right atop the hoop. Intel, Turner, and the NBA are still testing out camera angles, but hope to take fans even further into the action.
“We want the partnership with Intel to be another one where we can push the envelope forward, and take us to places we haven’t been with the VR experience,” Jeff Marsillo, NBA vice president of global media distribution, told Digital Trends. The NBA used Intel’s freeD technology during the 2017 NBA All Star Game to create highlights you can pause and view from different angles and depths in 3D. There are plans to bring that same technology to Intel’s NBA on TNT games in the future, which will allow fans to pause a Lebron James dunk in VR, for example, and view the three-time NBA champion’s exploits from every angle.
NBA on TNT is as popular for its on-air commentating crew as it is for the games it broadcasts. Intel’s NBA on TNT VR games will have the “TNT look and feel,” according to Funk, but no decisions have yet been made on whether Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, or any of the other NBA on TNT talent will be part of the VR experience.
You’ll be able to dive into Intel’s VR offerings this NBA season via the upcoming NBA on TNT VR app available for the Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR. The app will be cable-authenticated, so you’ll need to have a TNT subscription in your cable package in order to watch these games in VR. There are currently no plans to offer a free preview.