Verizon is teaming with the NBA to stream a dozen of the games in the league’s abbreviated special season in Orlando through virtual reality.
Verizon-owned production company Ryot will orchestrate the broadcasts, which will stream through Yahoo Sports’ NBA League Pass, though a Facebook Oculus Quest headset is required to view them. The multiyear marketing agreement between the two companies also gives Verizon the right to create sports betting content around the league and expand the distribution of NBA League Pass to include gaming integrations.
The announcement comes as the NBA has been experimenting with new media formats that make use of 5G connectivity with Verizon as a longtime partner. The league previously streamed select games in VR last season with startup NextVR, a production partner that has since been acquired by Apple.
Verizon Chief Marketing Officer Diego Scotti said that the VR partnership will be especially important at a time when no crowds are allowed in the stadiums due to the coronavirus pandemic. It could also help pave the way for a more interactive in-stadium experience once in-person sports eventually open up again.
“Do I think that virtual experiences will replace completely live experiences? No, but this would open a lot of doors to make experiences in stadiums or arenas, and experiences at home, different. So then there is a lot of crossover, and we can enhance those experiences a lot more from what they’ve been so far,” Scotti said.
The NBA Restart season is set to kick off tonight with matchups between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. It will take place entirely within the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando.