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Sport Is The New Porn For Virtual Reality

For years, right from the early days of the internet, the advance of digital tech was driven by the porn industry- hey; they funded a lot of it too! In the very early days of rich media, when a live stream would be the size of a postage stamp on your screen, the only ones prepared to watch- and pay- for that were the porn aficionados. As the image size grew, so did their numbers and the amount they were prepared to pay.

Sport the New Driver in VR

Everything changed as the internet began to compete as a viable source of sport’s coverage and ‘main-stream’ became a ‘revenue stream’. Sports fans got more choice on their computer than on their cable channels- and it was cheaper. The TV industry had to re-invent itself as a media hub and, as importantly, improve their service offering and its quality. Enter HDTV- a technology largely driven by the sports industry. Now that same $1.5 trillion industry is firmly in the driving seat of VR and its advancement.

2016 was Lift-off

After a few shaky starts, the global door finally opened for VR in 2016. At last, equipment in the consumer price range was released with products such as HTC Vive and the Samsung Gear VR. When US broadcaster NBC partnered with Samsung on the 2016 Olympics, owners of the Samsung Gear VR could see every event in VR- though 24 hours after it had happened.

Now, in 2018, it’s all about being ‘Live’.

NBA Leading the Charge

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is covering its entire 2017 to 2018 season in Virtual Reality. Available via the Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and, hopefully soon, Windows Mixed Reality, fans can choose which games they watch for $7 a pop- bring your own hot dog! A sub for the whole season is $200.
In the UK, football clubs are, more slowly, getting in on the act. The CEO of Aston Villa, Keith Wyness, said in 2017, that UK football clubs would soon be selling VR season tickets to the Chinese, to give them the full-on match experience!

MLB Chasing Hard in Second

Not be outdone, Major League Baseball (MLB) in the US have partnered with Intel True VR and are streaming a game each Tuesday evening. Fans don’t just get to see the game, but get up-to-the-minute stats and in-game commentary, exclusive to VR viewers. Clearly, the MLB are already enhancing their offering to ensure a complete experience, which will give them some ‘first mover advantage’ and Intel is only happy to oblige.

“As a VR partner of MLB, Intel is delivering a truly immersive virtual reality live stream where fans can experience the excitement of being at the ballpark every week,” -James Carwana, general manager, Intel Sports Group

Sky Sports – Not There Yet
In the UK, Sky is setting itself up as ‘’ the home of high-quality virtual reality (VR) content’’. Well, they pioneered the pay-for sports content, outside of the US, and their app has had mixed reviews, but it would be crazy to bet against them in the medium to longer term.

VR- Not Just for the Fans

In the same way that film transformed professional sports training in the 20th century, so VR is transforming it in the 21st. Major league sports are using VR training as standard, with even the better-funded colleges and universities joining-in. The fitness industry is not far behind, with the race to be the next Fitbit already on.
It’s All About the Money

Of course, at this stage of any new technology, it’s all about cost. There are consumer products out there and prices will continue to fall. But, it’s about ubiquity, market penetration, bums on seats- whatever you want to call it, it’s the same thing; commercial viability. So far, advances have been tech-led. Moving forward, it will be about consumer choice- and how VR can influence that. But, that’s about marketing and promotion; and a blog for another day (watch out for that one!).

Falling in Love Again

A fan can choose their own viewing perspective, immerse them-selves in the game and be prepared to fall in love with their sport all over again-from a different angle. For clubs and teams and players, it’s a different game. It’s keeping them-selves commercial and making sure they maximize exposure and, therefore, income. The team coach can only do so much- it’s the business team that will satisfy the board and make-or-break the entire enterprise.

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