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Rio 2016 Summer Olympics: NBC to Present 85 Hours of VR Content on Samsung Devices

2016.07.02 23:30 PT

[ Variety ] Todd Spangler:

NBC is leaning into virtual reality — the hot tech flavor of the moment — with plans to pump out some 85 hours of VR programming for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The VR content, the first time Olympics coverage will be presented in virtual-reality experiences, will be available exclusively on Samsung devices. And sorry, tech-forward cord-cutters: NBC will make the Olympics in VR available only to pay-TV subscribers of participating cable and satellite operators.

I’m a VR newb. I took my oldest and hopped on over to a local Best Buy to play around with the latest gadgets: noise-cancellation wireless over-ear headphones, smartphones, laptops, AIOs, 4K TVs, refrigerators, washing machines & dryers, etc. We agreed Beats sucks and Bose rocks, and that 4K content looks weird. The Avengers was on and Captain America looked downright silly, because his costume was so obviously a costume. Too much detail can be a bad thing when it comes to watching movies. We also agreed our Sony Trinitron HD CRT TV made watching movies enjoyable because the experience was like watching movies.

Another thing we agreed on was the Samsung Galaxy-based Gear VR system: it was really cool. Gear VR is not expensive: just US$100. If you already have the latest Samsung Galaxy smartphone — like the Note 5, S6 and S7 — Gear VR is a no-brainer if you want to play around with VR without spending a lot of money. At one point in the demo, I was flying through space. I looked down, and for a split second thought I would fall. Yeah, told you I was a VR newb.

I like that NBC and Samsung want to pull in folks who are interested in VR with the 2016 Olympics, but it also limits the availability of VR to only the latest Samsung Galaxy smartphone users with cable and satellite. (Although I think cord-cutters with services like Sling TV might be able to get credentialed at some cable and satellite websites.) I’m going to guess there will be a lot of bootlegged porting of NBC’s Olympic VR content to other VR systems.