Netball and Extreme E content added to the broadcaster’s Premier League matches streamed live in immersive VR
Sky has expanded the virtual reality (VR) coverage of sports available through Sky Worlds.
It kicked off Sky Worlds late last year as a replacement to Sky VR and began showing occasional live Premier League matches through it.
It has now expanded this to cover netball and Extreme E.
Immersive cameras were at the Copper Box to capture live coverage of every match from rounds 13 and 14 of the Vitality Netball Super League. A few weeks later, Sky Sports did the same for rounds 17 and 18.
Sky used a user-selectable three-camera set up and live streamed 18 hours of netball over four days.
Sky Worlds is available on Oculus Quest and Quest 2 and creates a 180-degree live stadium experience placing viewers in the stadium and enabling them to select unique camera positions to follow the action.
The idea is to try to replicate a similar viewing experience to being inside the stadium. There’s also the option to view the action alongside friends and family in Sky Sports Watchzones, to make it more of a sociable experience.
At the end of May, Sky also brought Extreme E action to Sky Worlds, covering the Ocean XPrix from Senegal.
As well as live Premier League, Vitality Netball and Extreme E, users of Sky Worlds can watch Sky Sports linear channels (Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Mix, Sky Sports News and Sky Sports NFL) through the VR environment in what Sky calls a ‘virtual lounge’.
Sky Original movies can be viewed in a similar way too. These options basically sit you in an immersive space where you can watch the content on a big virtual screen.
Sky Worlds is currently only available to Sky VIP [Sky’s loyalty programme] customers. The VR is created and delivered by a team including Sky and its partners, Tiledmedia, Techex and Cosm.
Sky Worlds Review
I had the opportunity to try Sky Worlds on an Oculus Quest 2 to view action from the Vitality Netball Super League, and some of the other sporting highlights.
The last time I’d really looked properly at VR was through headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR and Google cardboard, so the whole Oculus Quest 2 experience was a massive leap forward. The immersive experience was much better quality, the images clear and well defined and the content was much more comfortable to watch for extended periods of time.
The Sky Worlds action I saw was impressive, with the live football and netball reasonably successful in making you feel you are inside the stadium. You can look around the stadium from your vantage point and view the immersive 180-degree action on the pitch from the range of camera positions available. There’s also a big virtual screen showing the action as you would see it on a conventional screen.
There was a little delay between the 2D view on the big screen and the immersive VR action, which was especially noticeable in the netball and was a bit distracting, and left me wondering what the point of the big screen was when you can follow the action in VR already.
It was simple to change camera angles on both the netball and football. Being able to watch the action live from behind the net was especially effective.
However, despite everything working smoothly and seamlessly, I found there was still a limited amount of time I was happy to watch the games through the headset. It definitely has a ‘wow’ factor and it’s far more deserving of this than previous generations of VR. But it feels alien to watch with a headset on, and it’s not the most comfortable viewing experience imaginable. I’m still tempted to file the whole thing under the ‘impressive gimmick’ category.
Interestingly, Sky Worlds’ Matthew McCartney wrote a comment piece for Broadcast Sport recently where he admitted, “VR is not the end product for broadcast consumption, merely the first step in a journey that will lead to a complete 5G-enabled AR world.” So, this feels like another step in that direction. It’s impressive, immersive and offers something watchable, but there are still plenty more steps to go before it’s likely to be something fans will turn to on a regular basis.