FOX Sports VR Broadcast Of No. 3 Ohio State

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FOX Sports VR Broadcast Of No. 3 Ohio State
September 16, 2016

For the first time, college football fans will be able to watch a game from a virtual reality "suite" on their smartphones or VR device Saturday when No. 3 Ohio State takes on No. 14 Oklahoma at 6:30 p.m. on FOX.
 
It's simple: fans install the FOX Sports VR app on their iOS or Android device and authenticate their cable or satellite subscription. It will also available on Google Cardboard and Gear VR devices.
 
The app will offer five views of the game -- the virtual suite, two views from the 20-yard-lines near each bench and both goalposts (although a FOX official said the second goalpost camera might have to be placed elsewhere). 
 
FOX Sports teamed up with LiveLike, a start-up VR company, to bring the experience to fans. It's not FOX's first experiment with VR technology, however. During the 2015 and 2016 U.S. Opens, FOX offered 360-degree views throughout the golf courses."
 
What sets Saturday's virtual suite experience apart, according to network senior vice president of field operations Michael Davies, is the interactivity it offers.
 
"We knew that just watching a live game in VR wasn't necessarily enough," Davies said.
 
While 360-degree views have been the norm for most VR broadcasts, FOX Sports will only broadcast a 180 degrees of the field Saturday. The rest of the view will be of LiveLike's virtual suite. The reason, Davies said, is so fans feel they are immersed in something.
 
Look straight ahead from the virtual chair and see the action on the field. Look above for a virtual jumbtron with the live FOX broadcast, as well as replays. In the suite will be control panel where fans can access team rosters and schedules, Davies said.
"So, really, what we're trying to deliver is am ultimately sort of viewing experience, where you not only can watch in a cool place but, also, be able to choose your camera angle, as well," he said.
While some VR broadcasts across all networks have only been available for VR-specific devices, such as Google Cardboard, Gear VR and Oculus Rift, Saturday's virtual suite will be available to smartphone users in a pan-and-scan format -- what Davies referred to as the "Magic Window."
 
Because VR technology is relatively new, most college football fans have little experience with it. By making Saturday's broadcast available to smartphones, FOX Sports wants to reach a wider audience, not just the trend-setters, Davies said.
 
"While the experience is definitely better and optimized for VR -- and that's cool -- we acknowledge that not a lot of peo
ple have these things yet," Davies said.
 
Davies said that FOX Sports VR isn't intended to replace a traditional TV viewing of Saturday's game, rather it aims to be complimentary. Because VR goggles are clunky and relatively uncomfortable, FOX's virtual reality app is meant for short-form viewing.
 
"What we hope is that they'll be picking it up and dipping in and dipping out, maybe sharing it with their friends or whatever," he said. "Or, if they have the magic window experience just on their cellphones, it'll be something they might be able to pass around the room."
 
FOX has tested this technology with several sports, including a replay of a Mexico vs. Venezuela soccer game available on the app for fans to preview the virtual suite experience ahead of Saturday. However, Davies said the network chose Ohio State-Oklahoma to debut this new technology to the public because it's one of the biggest games FOX has ever broadcast.
 
And, if things go well, the technology could be available for other college football games later in the season.
 
"We just thought that there would be a lot of eyes on this thing, so what better way to bust it out than a huge college football game?" Davies said.

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