Six March Madness Games Will Be Produced in Virtual Reality
Through partnership with Intel, fans can purchase a courtside seat
Virtual reality is making its way into the March Madness, and, for the first time, it’s extending beyond Final Four weekend. Partnering with Intel, the NCAA, Turner Sports, and CBS Sports is set to produce six games in VR, including games from the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in San Jose, CA, and from the Final Four and National Championship Game in Glendale, AZ.
Through the production, viewers will be able to access a virtual courtside seat to experience NCAA Tournament games from up close. From there, the experience depends on the level of ticket purchased.
Yes, Intel, the NCAA, Turner, and CBS will look to monetize this and not just provide it as a free service. Content will be available to watch through the new NCAA March Madness Live VR app (which is available for free download from the Oculus Store), through which fans can purchase a VR Premium Ticket.
There will be two VR Premium Ticket options:
- Gold: For $2.99 per game or $7.99 for all six games, fans will be able to feel like they are sitting courtside with their favorite team, via fully produced VR coverage incorporating multiple courtside cameras, sounds from inside the arena, and dedicated game commentary featuring Spero Dedes with analyst Steve Smith and reporter Lisa Byington. Dedes, Smith, and Byington will call the game specifically from the perspective of fans watching the live coverage in VR.
- Silver: for $1.99 per game, fans can experience VR through a single courtside camera presentation (180-degree live stream) with the same commentary featured on the CBS broadcast with Jim Nantz, analysts Grant Hill and Bill Raftery, and reporter Tracy Wolfson.
“Intel’s technology integrations during March Madness is one example of how Intel is changing the fan experience with Intel True VR and Intel 360 replay technology,” says James Carwana, GM, Intel Sports Group. “Our goal in the Intel Sports Group is to deliver the best fan experience with our technology. By working with Turner, CBS. and the NCAA, we are giving the fans the best seat in the house with Intel True VR technology.”
Says Will Funk, EVP, property marketing and corporate partnerships, Turner Sports, “Intel’s virtual reality and 360 replay technology provide NCAA fans the most innovative viewing experience imaginable. Our partnership with Intel will provide an unrivaled opportunity for technological advancements across the college-sports landscape.”
CBS Sports Sales and Marketing SVP Chris Simko adds, “We are very pleased to welcome Intel to the NCAA Corporate Marketing family. Intel technology helps us bring college-basketball fans closer to the action than ever before.”
Says Dan Gavitt, SVP, basketball, NCAA, “Adding Intel as a corporate partner will upgrade the championship experience for our fans and keep our events on the cutting edge of technology in sports. We’re always wanting to know what is new and what enhancements we can make each year that allow our championships to be more enjoyable.”
Intel Debuts Intel True VR
Intel is also unveiling Intel True VR, having transitioned the technology and fan experience from the VOKE acquisition. Intel True VR will deliver immersive VR experiences with live and on-demand sports experiences, in-game highlights, and produced game feeds to bring the in-stadium experience to life from any location.
Fans can access sports and entertainment content on the Intel True VR app in the Oculus store. Sankar “Jay” Jayaram, co-founder of VOKE VR, continues to lead the Intel True VR team.
“VOKE was started over seven years ago with a passion to dramatically change how fans experience sports,” says Jayaram. “Intel True VR gives us the ability to make amazing new VR experiences come to life and extend it to teams, leagues and broadcasters.”
Intel True VR will deploys camera pods comprising 12 cameras per pod to deliver up to 48 cameras for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games and 84 cameras for the Final Four National Semifinals and National Championship.
During CBS Sports and Turner Sports coverage of the Final Four and Final Championship games broadcast on CBS, Intel 360 Replay technology will capture game highlights from every angle. The University of Phoenix stadium will be equipped with 28 5K UHD cameras coupled with Intel-based servers capable of processing up to 1 TB of data per 15- to 30-second clip.
The volumetric video is captured and sent through more than 5 miles of fiber-optic cables, which is fed into an onsite Intel control room, where a team of producers pick out and package the replays. The 360 Replay-enhanced clips enable close-up views from every possible angle.