Turner and the NCAA said they will offer paid access to up to six games in virtual reality during the remainder of the Division I men’s basketball tournament.
That coverage, offered on the NCAA March Madness Live VR App for the Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR mobile headset, will include games from the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds for the West Region in San Jose, as well as the Final Four National Semifinals and the National Championship.
They said this will market the first time that games from the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds have been available in VR. For last year’s tournament, Turner and CBS worked together on a free VR project around the Final Four.
The NCAA March Madness Live VR app with Intel True VR is sponsored by Intel. VR coverage will be in part powered by virtual reality systems Intel acquired last year from Voke, the company behind a sports-focused VR production platform that includes a proprietary stereoscopic capture system.
RELATED: Turner App Adds VR for Final Four
This year’s VR feeds will be made available through VR Premium Ticket at the Oculus store, and support two paid options:
-Gold: $2.99 per game, or $7.99 for all six games, for “fully-produced VR coverage” that includes access to multiple courtside cameras, sounds from inside the arena, along with dedicated game commentary from Spero Dedes along with analyst Steve Smith and reporter Lisa Byington. That trio will call the game specifically from the perspective of fans watching the live coverage in VR.
-Silver: $1.99 per game, for access to a VR experience from 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, along with reporter Tracy Wolfson.
The reach and adoption of VR technology has reached a point to support a premium, courtside approach that consumers will pay for, Hania Poole, GM/VP of NCAA Digital, Turner Sports, said.
“I believe it’s a business model that very well could take off,” she said, noting that Turner and the NCAA will also provide some in-game highlights on Facebook’s 360 video platform to help promote the experience.
“I think it brings the fan closer to being there,” Poole added, noting that the VR experience around the tournament will also provide more in-arena audio than before.
Update: Intel, Turner Sports, CBS Sports and the NCAA announced a broader, multi-year deal to provide “Intel True VR” technology for this year’s tournament. Intel noted that Intel Tru VR is the new brand to emerge from the Voke acquisition. Intel noted that it will use camera pods (12 cameras per pod) to deliver up to 48 cameras devoted to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games, and 84 cameras for the Final Four semifinals and National Championship.