NBC announced Thursday that it will broadcast 85 hours of the 2016 Olympics in 360-degree virtual reality, partnering with Samsung and the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). However, the content will be available only to users of Samsung Galaxy smartphones and the Samsung Gear VR headset.
The 85 hours of VR programming will be captured by OBS and supplied to NBC Olympics, the American network announced in a statement. The program will include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, men’s basketball, gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing, fencing and highlight packages of those sports.
“The world’s greatest sporting event is always a showcase for cutting edge technology, and we’re thrilled to partner with Samsung and OBS to bring our viewers even closer to compelling Olympic action with virtual reality,” NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said, “Olympic fans can be transported to iconic venues such as Maracana Stadium for an unprecedented view of the Opening Ceremony, and Copacabana Beach for an immersive beach volleyball experience in the sport’s ultimate setting.”
Virtual reality coverage of sports has reportedly been on the rise since VR headsets such as the Samsung Gear and Oculus Rift became widely available. Sports broadcasters say that virtual reality will be the next big game-changing way to watch sports. The audience right now is limited to those that have smartphones and VR headsets, which are expensive.
“Fans of the Olympics will now get to experience the world’s best athletes as they compete in some of the most popular events of Rio 2016 in a whole new way: through virtual reality,” Chief Marketing Officer at Samsung Electronics America Marc Mathieu said, “We are thrilled to work with NBC and OBS on this first-of-its-kind endeavor, connecting fans right to the action in Rio, powered by 360-degree storytelling, virtual reality and our Galaxy phones.”
In May, NBC broadcast the Kentucky Derby in 360 video. The NBA has broadcast some of its games in virtual reality. Fox Sports broadcast VR streams from the U.S. Open at Oakmont in June. The Olympic Games, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are scheduled to start Aug. 5.