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Over the past two years, the NBA has been the leading U.S. major professional sports league when it comes to experimenting with virtual reality and leveraging it to enhance the fan experience.
Earlier this month, as part of the 2016 NBA Global Games in China, the league and BesTV (part of Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group) announced an expanded partnership to deliver NBA programming in China, which will include more virtual reality offerings. Since the 1996-97 season, the NBA has been a partner with the Shanghai Media Group (SMG), the parent company of the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Group.
“BesTV represents the best in television, the best technology, the best management,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters.
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“We both share a love for technology and new platforms, and we said, ‘We should be doing something in virtual reality.’ And that came together very quickly.”
Silver did not go into too much detail but did elaborate that the difference between the older deal with SMG/BesTV and the new collaboration is that there are new digital platforms and technologies available today that both BesTV and the NBA can provide to fans.
“Whether it’s IPTV, streaming of games, whether it’s making our games available on mobile devices or on tablets. This creates the greatest possible exposure for us,” Silver explained. “And also, as I said earlier, we’re experimenting together with new ways to present the game. We’re looking at things like special camera angles for people watching on mobile phones, on small screens, so they can better see the faces of the players, and we’re looking at opportunities in virtual reality.”
After the press conference, it would be revealed in conjunction with the start of the NBA season that NBA Digital would stream weekly NBA LEAGUE PASS GAMES in live virtual reality and that NBA LEAGUE PASS would also offer NBA Mobile View for fans to see the action more closely on their mobile devices.
NBA LEAGUE PASS is also available in China for the first time this season thanks to a partnership with Tencent. The NBA’s deal with BestTV only added to coverage of the league in the country.
“After this newly renewed partnership, NBA games can be found across different platforms owned by SMG and Oriental Pearl,” SMG president Madam Wang Jianju told reporters. “That is the Great Sports Channel, IPTV/OTT set-top boxes and also Xbox and PlayStation, et cetera. We have already broadcast about 9,000 NBA games in the past. In the future, we’re planning to adopt 4K and virtual-reality technology to make the viewing experience even better for our audiences.”
As the Official Multimedia Partner of the NBA in China, BesTV and SMG will offer close to 1,300 NBA games each year, including regular season and playoff games, NBA All-Star Game and the NBA Draft, among others. Additionally, fans in China will be able to access NBA programming on-demand through the NBA Zone subscription service across BesTV’s platforms such as its mobile app, smart televisions and IPTV.