NBA Restart : League to introduce virtual fans and new broadcast initiatives

The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today a multidimensional plan for in-venue and broadcast enhancements for the resumption of the 2019-20 season, highlighting a whole new game with a more connected and immersive experience for fans.

NBA will be leveraging new partnerships with Microsoft and beer partner Michelob Ultra to enable more than 300 fans to appear each game on “Michelob Ultra Courtside” 17-foot video boards surrounding the court.

Utilizing Microsoft Teams’ new Together Mode, the participating fans will feel like they are sitting next to one another at the games and be able to interact with each other. Meanwhile, players will be able to see and hear their reactions in real time.

The Together Mode will seek to create a unique virtual experience by removing fans from their individual backgrounds and bringing them together in a shared visual space that will be seen through the broadcast and in the venue.

NBA Restart : How NBA will bring in virtual fans and create immersive experience ?

The National Basketball Association has unveiled a series of in-venue and broadcast initiatives for the resumption of the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Florida, which are designed to enhance the experience of fans watching from home.

In collaboration with broadcast partners ESPN and Turner Sports, more than 30 cameras, including many in robotic form, will be repositioned closer to the court and showcase never-before-seen camera angles in places that are otherwise not accessible with fans in the arena.  Microphones around the court will capture enhanced sounds from the floor, including sneaker squeaks and ball bounces.  DJs and announcers will be in-venue to help replicate the sounds and experiences teams are accustomed to in-arena.  

Additionally, all viewers will have the ability to impact visual effects in the venue through a virtual cheering experience.  Fans can digitally cheer for their team through the NBA App and and on Twitter using team hashtags throughout the game.  Virtual cheering will be reflected on the video boards in-venue with graphics and animations that capture the level of fan engagement around the world.  Fans will also have the opportunity to see their videos featured through TikTok Challenges.  Snapchat’s “ground segmentation” augmented reality technology will also give fans an opportunity to explore a virtual rendering of the official court in Orlando via a Lens wherever they are. 

NBA Digital, jointly managed by the NBA and Turner Sports, will provide customized viewing options on NBA League Pass and NBA TV via the NBA App and  Fans will have access to alternate feeds with new camera angles, enhanced graphics, gaming options, in-language and influencers calling the game with a focus on areas such as analytics, fashion and music.  Fans will also have access to live NBA Pick’Em: Trivia for every NBA game.

“Working with our broadcast and technology partners, we are excited to unveil a series of enhancements that will bring fans closer to the game and allow them to personalize their viewing experience,” said Sara Zuckert, NBA Head of Next Gen Telecast.  “Our goal is to create an enjoyable and immersive experience where fans can engage with each other and maintain a sense of community as we restart the season under these unique and challenging circumstances.”

“The core of our partnership with the NBA is delivering next-gen experiences for their fans on and off the court,” said Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft 365.  “All of us at Microsoft can’t wait to watch an NBA game again and are excited to be part of the new fan experience.  We hope Together mode helps fans feel more connected and immersed in the game, and helps teams feel the energy of their fans, even when they can’t be in the arena.”