NBA teams up with Unbnd in VR content deal
North American basketball’s NBA and Unbnd, an Australian creative technology company, have signed a content partnership to broadcast NBA TV, the league’s dedicated linear channel, in a mixed reality theatre experience to fans in Australia and Singapore.
From the 2019-20 NBA pre-season, Unbnd will launch Missing in Action, its new content platform, which will allow users to experience live NBA games, highlights and original programming.
The MIA platform will use mixed reality to enhance the NBA broadcast experience for fans, simulating a 360-degree virtual theatre environment that displays real-time game statistics and interactive branded content experiences.
Antony Arena, Unbnd chief executive and founder, said: “With the AR and VR industry set to reach a value of $20 billion in 2019, we know MIA will really appeal to fans and open doors for brands looking to attract and retain consumer attention.”
Ramez Sheikh, NBA Asia head of global content and media distribution, added: “As content consumption continues to evolve, the NBA has been at the forefront of technological innovations that enrich the viewing experience, and this partnership with Unbnd will allow us to provide another next generation viewing option to our fans.
“By combining NBA content with Unbnd’s enhancements, we will deliver an immersive and unique experience to further engage fans of the NBA.”
The MIA app will be available before the start of the 2019-20 season on mobile phone devices and all compatible virtual reality headsets.
In recent years, the NBA has embraced VR and rolled out multiple VR offerings across its platforms.
In October 2015, the league teamed up with domestic rights-holder Turner Sports and California-based NextVR to offer its first-ever VR broadcast of an NBA game.
A year later, the NBA’s digital arm signed a deal with NextVR to deliver at least one live game per week in VR to domestic viewers, while international fans (excluding China) have been able to watch on-demand games and highlights in the format.
In 2017, the league further ramped up its VR coverage by showing live games featuring the technology on an international basis.
At the time, the league outlined its aims to be the market leader in broadcasting matches in virtual reality and said it could even envisage selling fans around the world 'virtual tickets' to watch games taking place as if they were in the arena.
The NBA also recently partnered with Highlight Games, a specialist gaming supplier, to create NBA Last 90, an exclusive virtual sports betting game that will utilise league footage.