ITV’s virtual reality Grand National coverage: Is VR the future of sport?
Last Saturday, a crowd of 50,000 racegoers watched as One For Arthur claimed victory at the Grand National at Aintree. 8.2 million watched the race as it took place live on ITV. It is estimated that 600 million watch coverage of British racing’s biggest day worldwide.
It seems only fitting then that ITV has teamed up with virtual reality outfit VR City and media agency Goodstuff to create a virtual reality highlights video, allowing fans to get a 360-degree insight into the weekend’s biggest moments.
Available to watch now on ITV’s official YouTube, the new highlights video allows people at home the chance to step inside Aintree Racecourse during racing’s most famous day. Ed Ross, head of marketing and media at ITV, said one the aim of the coverage was “to give viewers ‘the best seat in the house'”.
The decision to make highlights coverage virtual reality is a step towards a future for sports broadcasting that looks increasingly VR-oriented.
We strapped on our cardboard virtual reality glasses to check out the footage that might be leading the way in the future of sports broadcasting.
Our first thoughts are that we’re still a long way from where VR sports coverage has to go next. The three-minute video is dizzying, skips between highlights too quickly and is far too brief to allow anyone to immerse themselves fully in the events of the day. It is a sad stand-in for actually being part of the buzz of the day, or even watching the race from the comfort of one’s sofa.
That said, it’s still an interesting glimpse into the future. Virtual reality might become the closest one can get to being inside the stadium and examining exactly what one wants to examine and when. When entire stadiums can be explored via VR, and entire games watched from the viewpoint of ‘the best seat in the house’, it’s going to revolutionise how fans watch sport. And that is incredibly exciting.