NBC offering Kentucky Derby in virtual reality

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The Kentucky Derby will unfold live in virtual reality for the first time, bringing fans so close to the action they will feel as if they could touch the thoroughbreds as they thunder around the famed Churchill Downs track.

NBC Sports Group, with its first foray into live virtual reality, and NextVR, the leader in live-action virtual reality technology, will give viewers intimate access to the race. From the paddock to the track and finishing in the winner’s circle, the drama and pageantry distinguishing this marquee event will be captured live in high-definition virtual reality.

The live virtual reality presentation of NBC’s coverage of the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby will begin at 4 p.m. Eastern on Sat., May 7. Two races prior to the Kentucky Derby, including the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, will also be presented in virtual reality. Saturday’s coverage marks the first-ever horse racing in virtual reality.

“We are excited to bring the pageantry and passion experienced annually by those at the Kentucky Derby even closer to viewers at home with the new medium of live virtual reality,” said Rob Hyland, coordinating producer of NBC Sports Group’s Triple Crown horse racing coverage, in a statement.

Seven virtual reality cameras will be used for the presentation from Churchill Downs. Five cameras will be placed trackside to capture an uninterrupted view of the race, including one adjacent to the owners’ suites, and two cameras will be in the paddock area to showcase the horses before parading to the starting gate.

The audio feed will include the race call from NBC’s Larry Collmus, who called American Pharoah’s historic Triple Crown victories last year, as well as commentary from NBC announcersTom Hammond, Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss.

“We’re going to wire our viewers directly into one of the most exciting, spectacular experiences in sports,” said Dave Cole, NextVR co-founder, in the statement.  “This is a show not to miss.”

The virtual reality presentation will include specially created content from NBC Sports Group, including feature stories as well as statistics, race data and updated betting odds. This additional information will be displayed on a virtual video screen during the virtual reality presentation, mimicking the giant video display at Churchill Downs.


The 2015 Kentucky Derby was the most-watched program on television last May, averaging 16 million viewers.

The virtual reality presentation of the Kentucky Derby will be available free through the NBC channel on the NextVR portal. Samsung Gear VR owners can download the NextVR app on any Gear VR headset compatible phones. For detailed instructions, go to http://www.nextvr.com/gearvr-live.

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