For the first time, FOX Sports will be offering the UEFA Champions League final live in virtual reality as Real Madrid and Juventus square off on FOX on Saturday.
While prior virtual experiences across college basketball, college football and soccer have been produced by the sports network, for the UEFA final, FOX and its technology partner LiveLike will be pulling feeds from UEFA’s cameras and productions, ultimately putting it into the FOX Sports VR app experience, according to Michael Davies.
The FOX Sports Senior Vice President of Technical and Field Operations described the virtual offering as “somewhat less of a heavy lift for us.”
“It’s an interesting model,” said Davies of the experience. “Can we sort of take a white-labeled solution and wrap it up in the FOX Sports VR?”
As in other FOX virtual reality broadcasts like the Big East Tournament, MLS Cup and Big Ten Football Championship, the UEFA final from Millennium Stadium in Wales will be available in the U.S. to fans who have a Samsung Gear VR or cardboard headset or on their Android or iOS devices for a 360-degree viewing experience. It will be accessible through the FOX Sports VR app once fans sign-in with their television provider credentials.
Three cameras will be positioned around the pitch, including one wide-frame shot and two behind each goal, with a possible fourth camera making an appearance behind one of the benches.
Davies — who has previously called virtual reality “Second Screen 2.0” — continued with that description, saying virtual reality is arguably more of a “companion experience” where fans can “dip in and dip out” of the immersive experience or even take a peak in 360.
“We still think that that is really valuable and a really cool way to experience sports on the side,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to give VR a helping hand through the interactive elements.”
Davies elaborated that with LiveLike, they’re working to increase the interactivity and provide real-time statistics for fans that complement the broadcast and further engage viewers, a point he iterated last December for the industry to take into consideration when offering VR content. Until the smartphone technology and consumer electronics meets the camera and broadcast capture, there will continue to be resolution, transmission and zoom problems, Davies alluded to last week.
When asked about the zoom issue in particular, Davies didn’t dispute that some sports are harder to see than others, including soccer, but said there isn’t an immediate answer to correct that broadcast issue.
“Sports like boxing and basketball are pretty good because you’re in this very small footprint. Sports like soccer and football end up suffering a little bit,” he said.
While Davies couldn’t discuss specifics, he said that for FOX’s next virtual go-around, there will be “a lot of those (interactive) features” through the FOX Sports VR app to provide additional value to fans.
“It may not be enough to offer up VR or 360-degree viewing, so we’re continuing to figure out ways with (LiveLike) to keep things a lot more interactive,” Davies added.
“(LiveLike) is always up for a challenge and are fairly nimble and quick to alter the features of the app to accommodate whatever you end up doing.”