Fox Sports continues to explore new livestreaming opportunities in virtual reality. The broadcaster has partnered with LiveLike to bring the MLS Championship Game on December 10 to VR fans through the Fox Sports VR app. Audi has signed on as the official sponsor for the VR livestream, which soccer fans can also watch across iOS and Android devices without using a Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR viewer.
“We partnered with MLS to continue to grow the sport of soccer in the US and engage fans of the sport in new, innovative ways,” Loren Angelo, vice president of marketing at Audi of America told [a]listdaily. “We’re working with LiveLike to bring VR to soccer so that fans will have the opportunity to interact with the sport in a way they never have before.”
That interaction includes the debut of several new features within the virtual suite users will view the game from. The game will be broadcast from five separate cameras, which gives viewers the ability to select their viewpoints on-the-fly.
Andre Lorenceau, founder and CEO of LiveLike, told [a]listdaily that some of the highlights include a new DVR with rewind functionality, a first-of-its-kind feature that combines the best elements of a TV-viewing experience with VR—allowing viewers to rewind as far back as 30 minutes. “Our trademark VR Suite will now be branded with Audi, including having an Audi car in-suite,” Lorenceau said. “Audi is a huge brand and a great partner. We’re just scratching the surface of how we can integrate brands into our live VR experiences, and we are really excited to continue expanding these efforts in 2017.”
The MLS game also introduces the Audi Player Index, which Angelo said was developed to continue to grow the sport of soccer in the US and engage fans of the sport in new, innovative ways. “Similar to our development of the Audi Player Index—a statistical analysis that tracks, measures and evaluates nearly 90 components and 2,000 player movements across every MLS game—we found a way to bring technology to the sport to elevate fan engagement,” Angelo said. “Now in VR, friends and fans can experience the Index and the game unlike ever before.”
Angelo said Audi targets consumers who are passionate and driven, which aligns nicely with soccer fans. “With the highest percentage of the millennial audience of any major US sport, our partnership with MLS allows Audi to reach a diverse, passionate and fast-growing audience that aligns with our strategy of reaching the next generation of millennial buyers,” Angelo said. “Audi’s partnership with MLS parallels the aggressive, challenger spirit of the two brands.”
Lorenceau discussed how brands can take advantage of the ephemeral feeling viewers get when watching sports in VR. “The potential is just huge,” he said. “For viewers who can’t make a game or are unable to sit court side, VR immediately puts them right in the action. And with TV ratings for live sports down nearly across the board, that immediacy is super important. All sports fans want a truly immersive, lean-in viewing experience that combines the best elements of TV with all that can be done with VR. And for brands to attach themselves to this is incredibly valuable. We’re just scratching the surface of what we can do for them, and expect to see a lot of innovation around VR and advertising in 2017.”
Fox Sports has been working with LiveLike for over a year, and the broadcaster has experience with bringing soccer games to VR fans. “Some of our earliest tests were with soccer and it’s a natural fit with the ability to switch perspectives in the stadium—from a high, mid-field perspective that allows you to follow the formations and tactics, to sideline and goal post cameras that get you in close to the action,” Devin Poolman, senior vice president of digital platforms at Fox Sports, said. “I still remember streaming a test match from COPA America and catching the right moment from an incredible Venezuela goal against Mexico. I knew this was something viewers would be excited about too. That also taught us that the DVR capabilities to re-watch those moments would be especially critical for soccer, and so we added that capability recently.”
Poolman said Fox Sports will promote the Audi LiveLike VR experience as part of the linear broadcast, along with special promotions from our mobile apps to make sure those streaming or following the game on Fox platforms are aware of the additional VR stream. “We’ve evolved our experience from initial, fairly static, experiences to more the more interactive and augmented livestreams in the Fox Sports VR app,” Poolman said. “But the biggest step forward may have been the availability on any mobile phone without needing Cardboard or a head-mounted device. We’ve learned that the interactivity is compelling even with a less immersive ‘magic window’ mode.”
Lorenceau said the LiveLike experience will continue to evolve, including the addition of multiplayer that will allow friends to gather in a VR Suite together to watch a game.
Poolman said Fox Sports is very interested in new platforms such as Google Daydream and PlayStation VR for some obvious reasons, like the controllers and room scale capabilities. But they’re also intrigued by both platforms extending to the TV set directly or via Chromecast. “They both have the potential to put a lot more head-mounted devices into users hands, which will be a great thing for everyone building VR experiences,” Poolman said.