NBA broadcasts to include immersive Microsoft fan experiences for restart

‘Together mode’ to create shared in-venue space for supporters tuning in from home.

by Ed Dixon

NBA broadcasts to include immersive Microsoft fan experiences for restart
  • Behind closed doors broadcasts look to replicate live game experience
  • ESPN and Turner to use more than 30 cameras with unique angles
  • Microphones around the court to capture enhanced sounds during play

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has unveiled its in-venue broadcast plans ahead of its restart on 30th July in Orlando, with the aim of bringing fans closer to the action through an immersive experience.

With games being played being played behind closed doors, some 320 fans for each fixture will be invited to appear live on video boards surrounding the court and interact with each other using Microsoft’s ‘Together mode’. Those supporters will have their individual backgrounds replaced by a shared visual space that will be seen both through the broadcast and in the venue.

This new experience will look to give fans the feeling of sitting next to one another at a live game. It is the first major activation between the NBA and Microsoft to go live since the pair teamed up in April to develop a next-generation direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming platform.

In addition, as part of the NBA’s collaboration with broadcast partners ESPN and Turner Sports, more than 30 cameras, including many in robotic form, will be repositioned closer to the court. These will showcase never before seen camera angles in places that are otherwise not accessible with fans in the arena. These include below the rim, off-court and rail cameras.

Microphones around the court will also capture enhanced sounds from the floor. DJs and announcers will be in-venue to help replicate the sounds and experiences teams are accustomed to.

All viewers will have the ability to impact visual effects in the venue through a virtual cheering experience. Fans can digitally cheer for their team through the NBA App and NBA.com and on Twitter using team hashtags throughout the game. Virtual cheering will be reflected on the video boards in-venue with graphics and animations.

Furthermore, fans will have the opportunity to see their videos featured through TikTok Challenges. Snapchat's ‘ground segmentation’ augmented reality technology (AR) will also give viewers an opportunity to explore a virtual rendering of the official court.

NBA Digital, which is co-managed by the NBA and Turner, will provide customised viewing options on NBA League Pass and NBA TV via the NBA app and NBA.com. Fans will have access to alternate feeds with new camera angles, enhanced graphics, gaming options, in-language and influencers calling the game with a focus on areas such as analytics, fashion and music. They will also have access to live NBA Pick’Em: Trivia for every game.

“What we've been focused on is creating the most genuine experience possible for our fans watching at home but also for our players in the arena,” said Sara Zuckert, the NBA’s head of next gen telecast.

“And so we wanted to create something that felt real and gave fans the opportunity to be present and to also interact digitally with our digital cheering function without crossing that line into something that seems over the top.”

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president, Microsoft 365, added: “The core of our partnership with the NBA is delivering next-gen experiences for their fans on and off the court.

“All of us at Microsoft can't wait to watch an NBA game again and are excited to be part of the new fan experience.  We hope Together mode helps fans feel more connected and immersed in the game, and helps teams feel the energy of their fans, even when they can't be in the arena.”