Investments in VR sports broadcasting gather steam

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Replay Technologies is an Israeli virtual reality start-up, has received an injection of $13.5 million from Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners (DTCP). The company has developed a proprietary video format that allows viewers to experience live sporting events from every possible perspective. Combined with an earlier Series A round of funding, this Series B round brings the total raised by the company to $27 million.

Replay Technologies’ FreeDTMtechnology is a new way for fans to watch live events. Most recently, Replay partnered with Intel to provide 360-degree instant replays for the NFL during Super Bowl 50 and the NBA during the All-Star Weekend.

According to Vicente Vento, CEO of DTCP, the Replay Technologies platform has the potential to revolutionize VR for sports and live events.

The startup has offices in Dallas, Newark, California and Tel Aviv. The investment will allow the company to explore opportunities in Europe and the U.S. and also to investigate streaming other kinds of sporting events and live entertainment.

“DTCP’s conviction has paved the way for a significant round which will allow us to focus on taking the technology to the next step – mass consumer adoption,” said Oren Yogev, CEO and co-founder of Replay Technologies.

The company is sure to face severe competition from other players been operating in this space, most notably NextVR. Founded in 2009, NextVR which has more than 26 patents related to VR content granted or pending, announced a 5-year partnership with Fox in February. The agreement includes live streaming of a range of top sporting events for which Fox Sports holds broadcasting rights.

NextVR has made a name for itself as a provider of engaging virtual reality experiences of live boxing championships, basketball games, soccer matches, and motor racing. The partnership with Fox is bound to expand the company’s scope and influence as a provider of opportunities for viewers to enjoy great sporting events in virtual reality. NextVR has raised $35.5 million in funding.

VOKE, formerly 3D-4U, is a San Francisco-based company that has also established a VR platform to bring live music and sporting events to fans in the form of immersive virtual experiences. VOKE has also signed deals with several professional sports franchises, including a partnership with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and a partnership with the Sacramento Kings that included financial investment.

Established in 2012, 3D-4U has leveraged its technical expertise in interactive VR to generate numerous key breakthroughs in creating immersive, live VR media, which has resulted in the development of VOKE’s VR platform.

A sign of the company’s serious intentions in VR sports broadcasting is the appointment in January 2016 of former Sportvision executive Jeff Jonas as chief commercial officer (CCO). Jonas is an eight-time Emmy award winner and has been an influential leader in the sports media and technology field for the past 20 years.

“Jeff is a visionary with outstanding commercial strategy and business development experience. His track record of success in innovatively taking technological breakthroughs to market is a tremendous asset to the company as we work on developing strategic partnerships and markets,” said Dr. Jayaram, VOKE’s co-founder and CEO at the time.

In another development, an early pioneer in the field has recently been acquired for a handsome sum. Immersive Media has been active in the production of immersive video content much longer than NextVR. The company was founded in 1994 and produced the world’s first immersive video that featured a basketball game where the camera was placed on a tripod on the court one year later.

The company last year formed a joint venture with Digital Domain to create IM360, producing content for brands such as Mercedes-Benz. Immersive Media was acquired by Digital Domain Holdings, parent company of Digital Domain, for $100 million in January this year.

Immersive Media, which is based in Kelowna, British Columbia, covered the Vancouver Olympic Games for NBC and Hockey Night in Canada for CBC Sports in addition to developing advertising content for customers like Mercedes-Benz, the NBA, NBC Sports, Adidas, MTV and PEOPLE amongst others.