NBA Invites Virtual Fans to Appear Live in Bubble

Virtual fans will be seen behind the basket when the NBA resumes play (Image credit: NBA)

With no crowd watching when it restarts its season in its Orlando bubble, the National Basketball Association is using technology to add fans to broadcast and dress up its venues.

The league said that more than 300 fans will be invited to appear live on 17-foot video boards that will surround the courts at the ESPN ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. 

The fans appearing on the Michelob Ultra Courtside will be able to interact with each other during the game using Microsoft’s Together mode. 

Michelob is the new official beer partner for the NBA.

Fox is also planning to create virtual crowds during its Major League Baseball broadcasts from empty stadiums.

Working with ESPN and Turner Sports, the courts will be surrounded by more than 30 camera, many operated remotely. With the arena largely empty, some of those camera will be closer to the court and get never-before-seen angle on the action.

Microphones around the court will better capture sounds when sneakers squeak and balls bound.

DJs and announcers in the venues will replicate the sounds teams are used to hearing during games.

Fans can digitally cheer for their team through the NBA App and and on Twitter using team hashtags throughout the game. 

“Working with our broadcast and technology partners, we are excited to unveil a series of enhancements that will bring fans closer to the game and allow them to personalize their viewing experience,” said Sara Zuckert, NBA Head of Next Gen Telecast. “Our goal is to create an enjoyable and immersive experience where fans can engage with each other and maintain a sense of community as we restart the season under these unique and challenging circumstances.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.