Microsoft brings fans virtually back to NBA league

Hundreds of fans will appear live at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

Microsoft: fans will be able to cheer on players live
Microsoft: fans will be able to cheer on players live

Microsoft will bring National Basketball Association fans back to the court through an in-venue broadcast.

Three hundred fans will appear live at each game from 30 July via 17-foot video boards surrounding the court. They will have the opportunity to digitally interact with each other throughout the games and support the players by cheering them on in real time.

The experience was created using Microsoft's "Together" mode, a feature available on Teams. It allows participants to have their individual backgrounds removed and displays them together in a shared visual space.

Jared Spataro, corporate vice-president at Microsoft 365, said: "The core of our partnership with the NBA is delivering next-gen experiences for their fans on and off the court.

"All of us at Microsoft can't wait to watch an NBA game again and are excited to be part of the new fan experience. We hope 'Together' mode helps fans feel more connected and immersed in the game and helps teams feel the energy of their fans, even when they can't be in the arena."

The 2019/20 NBA season, which resumes this week, went on hiatus on 11 March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Games for the remainder of the season will be played inside the Arena, Field House and Visa Athletic Center at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida.

Fans can digitally cheer for their team through the NBA App and and on Twitter using team hashtags. Virtual cheering will be reflected on the video boards inside venues with graphics and animations. Fan videos will be featured through TikTok challenges, while Snapchat's "ground segmentation" augmented-reality technology will give fans an opportunity to explore a virtual rendering of the official court in Orlando via a Lens.

In collaboration with broadcast partners ESPN and Turner Sports, 30 cameras will be repositioned closer to the court to display new angles. Microphones around the court will capture enhanced sounds, such as sneaker squeaks and ball bounces. DJs and announcers will be present at the venues to help replicate the sounds and experiences teams are accustomed to.

NBA Digital will provide customised viewing options, giving fans access to alternate feeds with new camera angles, enhanced graphics, gaming options and influencers' commentary.