NBC is leaning into virtual reality — the hot tech flavor of the moment — with plans to pump out some 85 hours of VR programming for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
The VR content, the first time Olympics coverage will be presented in virtual-reality experiences, will be available exclusively on Samsung devices. And sorry, tech-forward cord-cutters: NBC will make the Olympics in VR available only to pay-TV subscribers of participating cable and satellite operators.
The 85 hours of VR programming, which will be captured by Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) and supplied to NBC Olympics, will include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, men’s basketball (including the semifinals and final), gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing and fencing, along with highlight packages of those sports.
The Peacock is promising the VR content will give Olympic fans a you-are-there feeling, ranging from such venues as Maracana Stadium for the Opening Ceremony to Copacabana Beach for an immersive beach volleyball experience. The VR lineup will feature on sport or event per day for the duration of the games.
“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,” Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, said in a statement.
NBC’s jumping on the VR bandwagon with a high-profile event like the Olympics could give a boost to the nascent virtual-reality sector. But recall that for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, NBC hyped its 3D TV distribution deal with Panasonic — a category that withered on the vine.
All VR programming will be presented on delay, starting Aug. 6, the day after the Opening Ceremony, through Aug. 22, the day after the Games conclude. Only Samsung Galaxy smartphones compatible with Gear VR will be able to access the VR content section of the NBC Sports app. Samsung customers can view the VR content via TV Everywhere on the NBC Sports app after authenticating through their pay-TV provider.
OBS first tested VR technology with Samsung earlier this year in Lillehammer, Norway, at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games. Samsung is the official smartphone partner of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.