You can now watch NBA games with courtside views, thanks to virtual reality

NBA's VR broadcasts
NBA's VR broadcasts 04:44

The NBA is upping its game, giving fans a whole new perspective. Thanks to virtual reality technology, fans who might never have a chance to get to an NBA game can now feel like they’re in the stands, or even courtside. 

All you need is a subscription to the NBA League Pass, a virtual reality headset, and the free app “NextVR” on your smartphone. 

CBS News correspondent Dana Jacobson gave the technology a try. 

“I mean, the players are like, there. I should be touching them but I’m not,” Jacobson said. “It’s so clear. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just unreal.”

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“Traditionally, sport has been watched on a flat screen and now for the first time in history, we take you inside the screen in a way that you’ve never been able to stream content,” said Danny Keens, vice president of content at NextVR -- NBA Digital’s partner in a weekly virtual reality broadcast. 

“We can’t just be different from traditional television; we have be better than television and we can’t just be different from being at the game,” Keens said. “We have to be better than being at the game.”

“What was it like the first time you watched that full broadcast with the NextVR technology?” Jacobson asked Jeff Marsilio, who heads the venture for the NBA.

“I was nervous and then I was really excited as I saw it really come together,” said Marsilio. “We sat the camera at a courtside table and just you know, filmed -- no real production, nothing more than just filming and capturing. But when we watched the experience, we were blown away.”

But to broadcast a game each week, the league realized it needed to do more. 

“It’s not enough to simply put the camera down and walk away,” Marsilio said. “What we’ve discovered is you really do need the context that you get from some of the more traditional things that we see in television.”

That means an entire broadcast crew -- up to eight unmanned cameras with 180-degree views -- are set up throughout the arena, including one on the stanchion of each basket and one center court on the scorers’ table. 

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“And this is actually your right eye, and this is your left eye,” Keens explained.

“Does it combine in my brain?” Jacobson asked about the headset. 

“Yeah it combines actually in the VR Headset. And so that gives you the depth of 3D because each one is slightly off, and in the headset, it puts it back together and it gives you this sense of a 3D world,” Keens said.

One camera is also positioned at a stanchion underneath a basket. Tickets are not available for the seats there.

“There’s no ticket for that on the basket position. Just in last week’s game, there was a moment when LeBron [James] was running down the court right at you and you feel like, ‘Oh man, he’s coming at me.’ And the hair raises on your arms. It’s pretty exciting,” Marsilio said. 


From a designated announce team, to the way a game is cut and even the graphics you see, once the headset goes on, it’s all designed to keep fans engaged.

“There is no multi-tasking, there is no Facebook, no Twitter, there’s no checking emails, there’s no sending a text message,” Keens said. “So you become fully engaged in the content in a way that you’ve never been engaged. So you’re 100 percent committed to watching the game.”

The league is not releasing specific numbers, but told CBS News people are watching the VR games. As for what’s next, both the NBA and NextVR said the technology is rapidly improving so they expect the quality of games and the number of broadcasts to grow.