The National Football League is producing its first original VR series, launching exclusively on YouTube and Google’s Daydream View virtual-reality headset starting later this month. But the project underscore that it’s still early in the VR game — with the league tapping the tech as a promotional fan-engagement vehicle, rather than a revenue driver.
NFL Films will produce a nine-part series offering a 360-degree perspective of life in and around the NFL, covering players, coaches, executives, cheerleaders and fans. The series of 5- to 10-minute episodes, marking the first episodic VR sports program, will center on how the denizens of Football Nation prepare for game day.
The VR content will be free, with the first episode of the series to be available on the NFL’s YouTube channel on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24). Later this year, episodes will also be available via the NFL’s VR app designed for Daydream View, Google’s mobile VR headset that works with its new Pixel phones set to begin shipping Nov. 10, along with other immersive experiences.
“Virtual reality is an emerging platform that enables content experiences with a truly unique vantage point that brings fans closer to the game,” said Vishal Shah, the NFL’s senior VP of digital media. “We want to get better acquainted with the technology, the platform, the content we can actually create… and how our fans are engaging in the content and viewing it.”
Shah declined to say what the NFL is spending on the VR series. Google is contributing staff and equipment for the project, and is helping the NFL develop the app for the Daydream View platform. NFL Films also is working with production company Two Bit Circus VR on the series.
NFL Films is currently in production on the series, which is being shot using Google’s Jump 360-degree camera rig system. In the first episode, viewers will spend a week with the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive line as they prepare for an upcoming game. Subsequent episodes will tag along with the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders, go inside Green Bay’s distinctive football culture, and offer an insider’s look at the San Diego Chargers organization.
The league experimented with virtual reality in 2015, and showcased some initial VR content at events including Super Bowl 50’s NFL Experience fan convention in San Francisco.
The NFL launched its official YouTube channel in January 2015, and since then it’s generated more than 1 billion video views. The YouTube channel currently carries game previews, in-game highlights, post-game recaps, and news, analysis, fantasy football advice, and other short-form content from NFL Media properties. Additionally, 96 classic NFL games — three for each of the league’s 32 teams — are posted in their entirety on the NFL’s YouTube channel.