- Google and NFL Films are releasing a nine-part virtual reality series exclusively for Google’s Daydream platform and YouTube, according to an NFL press release. The NFL experimented with VR last season, but this will be its "first foray" into producing fully formed content.
The documentary series not only offers 360-degree video, but also “a 360-degree perspective” of life in the NFL, profiling the the lives of executives, players, fans and everyone in between.
The first episode will debut on the NFL's official YouTube page on Thanksgiving Day, with more entries arriving on an NFL VR app designed for Daydream later in the year. Daydream View, Google's fabric headset, is set for release on Nov. 10.
As traditional TV viewership for football slips, the NFL might be looking for new means to build buzz, and VR could spark interest in fans eager to try the immersive tech. While VR hardware has often been split between low-end options like Google Cardboard and more considerable purchases like the Oculus Rift, Daydream View arrives as an affordable mid-tier device designed with mainstream consumers in mind.
And while the NFL has rarely worried over ratings in the past, the growing divergence from linear broadcasting in favor of streaming on platforms like Facebook and Twitter has hurt networks nearly across the board this year, necessitating some sort of digital expansion.
The NFL brokered its own 10 game, $10 million package deal with Twitter to diversify its offerings in that regard, and though the partnership received positive early reviews from fans, it’s reportedly left some sponsors “underwhelmed.”
The VR series will be available for free, according to Variety and shows the NFL is willing to broach less traditional content channels as it seeks ways to build hype and attract sponsors interested in taking advantage of the latest tech. The sports organization is also referring to the effort as the "next generation of NFL storytelling," which could admittedly just be PR jargon, but might suggest more VR projects further down the line.
The YouTube offerings also present exciting broadcast opportunities for marketers, as the video portal is already 360-degree video capable, and has recently brokered media deals to live stream major events like the presidential debates.