NBC Sports to Broadcast The Kentucky Derby in Virtual Reality


a1It’s really incredible how many large media firms have jumped on board the virtual reality bandwagon over the last several weeks.  With headsets beginning to arrive in homes across the planet, companies are rushing to be the first in a variety of new VR frontiers.  One such frontier is that of the live sports segment of the market, and today NBC has just announced that they will be broadcasting the biggest horse race of the year, the 142nd Kentucky Derby, in a virtual reality format this weekend.

NBC Sports is holding nothing back, via a partnership with NextVR to broadcast the race via seven different 360-degree cameras.  The cameras, five on the actual race track and two in the paddock at Churchill Downs, will be able to provide a virtual reality viewing experience like never seen before at a horse race.   In addition to the Derby, NBC will also broadcast 2 prior races in VR as well, including the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

“As we dip our toe into the virtual-reality realm, our thought process was ‘where is the most iconic place that we can transport the user at home?’ Churchill Downs is that place for us,” says NBC Sports Group Director of Production Technology Matt Celli, who is also directing the VR feed. “NBC Sports is really proud to have this be our first real foray into this world.”

NBC will also be augmenting the video content so that viewers watching the race via virtual reality will also see a virtual video board which will mimic the actual display that is present at Churchill Downs.  The race calling will be done by NBC’s Larry Collmus, with additional commentary from Randy Moss, Tom Hammond and Jerry Bailey.

“With a footprint this large, we can’t cut cameras the way that the linear broadcast does to tell the story,” says Celli. “So we are going to insert a virtual [videoboard] with the output of the [linear-telecast] production from [producer] Rob Hyland and [director] Drew Esocoff. The viewer at home is used to having certain pieces of information and storytelling [elements] thrown their way. Even the user at a game can look up at the videoboard and see a replay or the score. That is how we are trying to serve this audience as well.”

This is yet another big VR event that NextVR will be helping to present to viewers.  The company certainly seems to have a clear focus on rapid expansion of their live virtual reality event offerings.  For those hoping to catch the race in VR, it’s absolutely free, and coverage begins at 4pm EST this coming Saturday.  The content will be made available on the NBC channel on the NextVR portal.

Let us know if you intend to watch this race in the Kentucky Derby VR forum on VRTalk.com.