Last year, the NCAA and Voke offered virtual reality streaming of March Madness games for free. Virtual Reality streaming for the tournament is back this year, but with a price and new sponsor. Intel and the NCAA became exclusive partners and plan to offer six of the remaining tournament games in virtual reality.
There are two subscription levels for those who wish to give it a try. For the Gold option, viewers can pay $2.99 per game or $7.99 for all six games. They will experience multiple courtside views, crowd noise and commentary specifically geared for them. Spero Dedes, Steve Smith and Lisa Byington will call the game exclusively for those watching with virtual reality headsets. The Gold subscribers will be shown views from the seven camera pods Intel will place around the court. Each pod contains 12 separate cameras.
Silver subscribers will pay $1.99 for each game with no deal for all six games. They will see the game from one 180 degree courtside camera and receive the CBS commentary done by Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson.
Only those with the Samsung Gear VR headset are allowed to watch the games. Viewers also have to download the March Madness VR app for free in order to stream it.
The Sweet 16 begins Thursday and two of the games will be available; Gonzaga vs. West Virginia and Arizona vs. Xavier. Only one elite eight game in San Jose will be broadcasted, but both the final four games as well as the championship game will be offered.
There are more virtual reality headset options beside the Samsung Gear VR, but Intel and NCAA decided to focus on the most t prevalent headset, they said. James Carwana, GM of Intel’s sports group told Yahoo it signed a multi-year deal with the NCAA for this reason. It is focused on getting the games out to the largest demographic during the first year and can focus on providing the games to other company’s virtual reality gear in the next few.
Intel provided virtual reality streams of four NFL games as well as highlights this past season and expect to expand their reach with their recent purchase of Voke. Voke showed three March Madness games in VR during last year’s tournament.
Forrester Research estimates there will be 52 million virtual reality headsets in homes by 2020. While VR hasn’t exploded yet in the United States, experts believe it will gain traction the more things are specifically developed for it.