Beginning during the 2017 MLB regular season, Intel True VR is livestreaming one MLB game every Tuesday. Available via the Intel True VR app, the technology uses multiple panoramic, stereoscopic camera pods to create a more natural, realistic and immersive view that brings MLB fans closer to the action. (Credit: Intel Corporation)
For baseball fans experiencing Intel True VR’s free coverage of a Major League Baseball game of the week in live virtual reality this season, they’re being treated to views from the dugout, home plate and centerfield. Fans can watch from those perspectives for the entire game, switch back and forth, or sit back and allow the broadcast to select the best views.
It’s an entirely new experience that was launched this month on the Intel True VR app and one that is different from what fans attending the game or watching on television get to see. And as Intel’s three-year partnership with MLB develops, there could be opportunities in the future for virtual game tickets to eventually be sold to those who prefer the VR experience.
“Virtual tickets are absolutely one of the things that gets us excited to both offer to fans and certainly as a monetization component from the rightsholder’s perspective,” Intel Sports Group managing director David Aufhauser told Vince Gennaro earlier this month on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio channel.
During this year’s NCAA tournament when Intel True VR partnered with Turner Sports, CBS and the NCAA to offer live VR broadcasts for six games, providing virtual courtside seats for fans who purchased a VR premium ticket. Fans could watch for $1.99 per game via a single courtside camera and receive the television broadcast from CBS. For $2.99 per game or $7.99 for all six games, fans could choose between six camera angles or have fully-produced VR coverage incorporating the cameras while listening to dedicated VR game commentary.
“That was pretty exciting because we think it might have been the first virtual tickets in VR were sold for a sporting event,” Aufhauser said. “And that’s a pretty exciting endeavor and not even yet scratching the surface of what a virtual ticket could be.”
For MLB broadcasts in VR, Aufhauser said the free coverage for this season could involve three to five camera angles depending on the venue, as he included cameras set up at iconic locations on Fenway Park’s Green Monster or a place like Chase Field’s swimming pool as possibilities.
It’s all part of an exploration into what sports fans want from their VR broadcasts. Because if the demand is there for virtual tickets, they offer the possibility for so much more than simply a sellout crowd at a venue with a tens-of-thousands seating capacity. Aufhauser used English Premier League clubs as an example.
“Some of those teams have fan bases in the hundreds of millions,” Aufhauser said. “And if you can offer them unique opportunities above and beyond the current experiences to have something completely different, those are fanatical diehard fans who are absolutely willing to pay for something that’s unique to experience something unique. It’s an incredible opportunity for fans, and certainly there’s a potential big monetization component to that.”