- The National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers updated its mobile application with virtual reality (VR) content, behind-the-scenes videos and real-time updates about the team. Zeality, a VR developer based in Pleasanton, CA, is providing the immersive media technology for the app, according to a press release.
- The VR features promise to show viewers what it’s like to run onto the field at Levi’s Stadium before a game and to share content within the app using Zeality Re/Lives technology. The next update will have expanded support of 360-degree photos, said Zeality co-founder and CEO Dipak M. Patel.
- The 49ers app is available for download on Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Zeality’s Immersive Media Engine to create and manage VR features was developed for media, sports and entertainment organizations.
The last-place 49ers were more notable in the past NFL season for former quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem than for his ability to put points on the scoreboard. The politicization of the game was partly blamed for boycotts of the NFL, whose TV ratings slumped 10%, according to Recode. The league needs to get focused again on providing sports entertainment that helps people to forget civic division rather than providing yet another forum for political bickering.
Football is the most-watched sport in the U.S., but younger audiences appear to be turning away in droves. The 18- to 24-year-old demographic collapsed by 42% last season, which extended a longer-term decline, especially among women. VR may give the NFL and other professional sports organizations a way to connect with a generation that's grown up on cell phones and video games. The 49ers newest app features will also show exclusive footage from the 2017 Draft Day Party and bring fans closer to the team in an innovative fashion.
The younger audience is very engaged with social media to connect with friends and follow celebrities, but not necessarily sports figures. The wider array of entertainment options available to younger audiences makes professional sports less relevant than in the past. In order to connect with the next generation of sports fans, the NFL needs to find more ways to integrate cutting-edge technology and promote players with athletic star power.