Now that virtual reality is the latest craze, Fox Sports is offering VR streams from the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Oakmont. It’s not intended to supplant the high-definition broadcast on a giant flat-screen TV audiences seem quite happy with, rather it’s portrayed as a complementary enhancement that works with the current regular cable streams.
“It’s not meant to be and we’re not producing it as a replacement,” said David Nathanson, Fox Sports’ head of business operations.
The idea is that fans will still mainly watch the event on their television sets, but they’ll use VR for enhancements: game recaps, highlights of a particular play, features, brief forays into watching a certain portion of the action live.
As part of Fox’s five-year deal with NextVR, cameras at Oakmont will be positioned at the ninth, 17th and 18th holes, with roving capability at the neighboring Nos. 10 and 12. There will also be pre-packaged video on demand, including footage of players on the practice range each morning, a narrated history of Oakmont, two-minute “golf tips” and features on each hole. The coverage is available through the NextVR app for Samsung Gear VR owners.
Virtual reality still faces some of the same challenges that hindered 3D back in the day. Viewers need to buy special equipment to view the broadcast, and even once they do, they might decide they find the devices too inconvenient and cumbersome to wear regularly. The future of VR in general will likely depend on how much – and how quickly – both the price and the unwieldiness of the hardware decrease.