TBS and Intel are launching NBA on TNT, a brand new platform for viewing live NBA games in VR. The ambitious project is a multi-year deal with some interesting implications for viewers. VR TV offers unique opportunities to view the action, and the NBA appears to be taking those opportunities seriously with lots of content geared toward serious fans. Every live game will feature at least 4 camera angles to choose from, and additional replays and broadcast content can be broken down and rewound from multiple angles.

The launch event began with the NBA All-Star Game in 2018, but the deal will extend for a few years. Viewers have a few options to view games, each with in-game statistics available during the broadcast. Read on to learn more about this exciting new venture in VR.


credit: NBA on TNT

Viewers with a cable subscription will be able to log into the platform, which features a selection of games to choose from. Studio J content is also accessible, for some color commentary and behind-the-scenes production content that goes more in-depth with analysis and highlights.

This service only covers games available through the TNT network, there is a wider pass available if you want to capture more games. That said, there are some great games upcoming that should give anyone the chance to see what VR is all about. Anything with the Rockets or the Warriors will be high scoring, and if you enjoy watching LeBron James then there are a few Cavs games for you as well.

NBA VR Ecosystem

NBA on TNT is part of the larger ecosystem of mixed reality content the league is focused on. The organization knows that fans can’t attend every game, but it’s possible to bring that courtside experience to them. Everything begins with the VR league pass, a season pass allowing for full replays of every available game with several live games on the schedule to choose from. Some of those games will be free previews, so be sure to check out the calendar to see when you can catch a glimpse of VR without the commitment.

The technology behind it is NextVR, best known for live event streaming via the Oculus. This time, the NBA is looking to take advantage of the Samsung Gear, Google Daydream, PSVR and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets too.

Viewers have the option of chilling out in the box seating area, where they can view more detailed statistics and have a bit more of an interactive experience, or getting up close and personal.

The NBA also has a thriving digital and social presence, geared toward pushing subscriptions and ticket sales for games. Pop-A-Shot is one novel experience available on iOS, and it features a unique tie-in for the team you favor. You can buy tickets and view a schedule of upcoming games at any time within the app.

Learning Opportunities

Broadcasting in VR has some unique viewing opportunities, but it really thrives as a learning experience. Coaches can use this hardware, which is based on mobile phone technology that is relatively inexpensive, to walk players through professional plays. You could break down a play, telling someone which angle to focus in on and what to watch for.

This is important for players who want to focus on the portion of the game most relevant to their playstyle. The camera in live TV focuses on where the ball is, not what’s happening around the court. Even though we can see everything, our eyes naturally drift to the action and movement around the ball. Accessible camera angles in VR change the flow of viewing and allow us to focus on specific playmakers and how they move around the ball.

Final Thoughts

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZwr0izJYkc&w=560&h=315]

More professional sports are embracing VR broadcasting, and TNT is getting in on the action as a network. That’s huge! Viewers who do pay for the NBA’s league pass get significant content to make the cost worth it, but mostly we shouldn’t have to pay twice for games we are already watching and that’s part of what makes NBA on TNT so exciting for regular fans.

With the learning opportunities that VR presents, and the control over the action, this is a bold step forward in popularizing VR sports broadcasting. Both the NBA and TNT embraced multiple points of entry as well, with headsets at every possible price point, for any budget to sample the content.

Have you checked out any live games in VR?