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Ready and Dedes Discuss NBA’s VR Broadcast

Jason Barrett

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At the start of the season, many NBA fans were upset Stephanie Ready was removed as the Charlotte Hornets’ TV color analyst and reassigned as their sideline reporter. With the Hornets nowhere near the NBA Conference Finals, Ready still finds herself heavily involved in playoff coverage.

No stranger to being a pioneer within the industry, Ready is currently broadcasting the Western Conference Finals with Spero Dedes during the NBA’s innovative virtual reality coverage for Turner Sports. Turner Sports is partnered with the NBA and Intel to provide fans with the unique VR experience.

“The beauty of virtual reality is I can say ‘Look to your left. Steve Kerr is livid because his players missed a defensive assignment,’ and the fans at home can turn to the left and look at Kerr in real time,” Ready told USA Today.

“If it were a regular television broadcast, I’d have to press my talkback button on my headset, get my director on the line and say ‘Get me a shot of Steve Kerr on the bench,’ and by the time that is on the screen for viewers at home, hopefully he’s still doing what he was doing when I noticed it, but probably not,” Ready continued.

Preparing for games is similar to a regular broadcast, but the actual call is different. Ready and Dedes have even called VR games from their 53-foot production truck while watching six monitors. One of the biggest adjustments is remembering many of the users viewing the broadcast in VR are doing so for the first time.

“We’ve tried to be less stats heavy and have a running conversation with Stephanie about the game,” Dedes said. “Because this is still not mainstream and fans are experiencing it for the first time, we find ourselves being more of a traffic cop and introducing them to what the technology is like, what the capabilities are like.”

To experience the NBA in virtual reality, fans need to download the NBA on TNT VR app and purchase a compatible headset. The NBA’s VR partnership is in conjunction with Intel and Turner Sports which means the Western Conference Finals is the last chance for fans to experience the game in virtual reality this year.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

Jordan Bondurant

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling

“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.

ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.

Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.

“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”

Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.

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Sports TV News

NFL Thanksgiving Games Set Ratings Records

FOX Sports added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021.

Jordan Bondurant

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NFL

The Thanksgiving slate of NFL games last week brought in the largest audiences ever. Viewership across all three games averaged 33.5 million.

The game with the largest viewership was Giants/Cowboys in the 4:30 p.m. window. FOX Sports reported that 42 million watched Dallas beat New York 28-20. It is the largest regular season audience ever, surpassing the previous leader set 32 years ago.

The network added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021. FOX carried the Detroit Lions traditional noon Thanksgiving game last year. Compared to the Cowboys turkey day contest on CBS in 2021, viewership was up 3%.

The Bills/Lions game in the early window on CBS averaged 31.627 million, with the audience peaking at 41.981 million. It was the most-watched early Thanksgiving game on record.

Patriots/Vikings on NBC in the nightcap averaged 25.9 million. That figure was up 24% compared to Bills/Saints a year ago, with NBC Sports claiming it’s the second most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game on record. The game was simulcast in Spanish on Telemundo, which averaged 565,000 viewers and made it the most-watched NFL game ever on the network.

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