Virtual audience opens to fans
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 15, 2020 - 12:00am

The PBA’s bubble feature of a virtual audience wasn’t supposed to invite fans until Monday but because of insistent public demand, commissioner Willie Marcial has decided to open it up starting today. Marcial said PLDT chief revenue officer, Smart president/CEO and PBA Meralco governor Al Panlilio called the other day asking if the fans could be included earlier than Monday with clamor in social media reaching high decibel levels.

“It’s actually TV5’s call,” said Marcial. “Nasa test run stage tayo since the restart kaya mga team officials, families at media muna ang nasa virtual audience. After tumawag si governor Al, gumawa kami ng paraan to advance ang schedule. Kami rin sa PBA, daming nagtatanong kung pwede na sumali mga fans. So sabi ko, go na natin ‘to. But sana please bear with us kasi talagang test run lang tayo at marami pang fine-tuning ang kailangan.”

There are three LED walls on three sides of the court at the Angeles University Foundation fourth floor gym where the games are played. The main wall spans about 94 feet, including two non-LED ends showing the PBA logo. Two baseline walls are about half the width of the floor. In all, 250 may be accommodated on the three walls but only 60 to 80 will be allocated for fans at the onset. Most of the virtual seats are reserved for team officials, owners and families of players. The system is similar to what was employed in the recent NBA bubble.

According to PBA social media administrator Michelle Flores, registration links will be posted at 10 a.m. every day in the league’s sites for fans applying to be included in the virtual audience. Links are changed daily. After a fan registers, instructions will be sent via email on steps to join the virtual audience. Flores said fans will be tapped on a first-come-first-serve basis. Sitting in the virtual audience is strictly for one game. A waiting list will be made so that once a fan leaves his seat, he or she is easily replaced. The PBA sites are on Facebook and Twitter

Panlilio said powering the PBA bubble from the Mimosa Leisure Estate to the playing venue with Smart 5G technology is making it easy to get the virtual audience going. “I just want more fans to have the opportunity to experience being a virtual fan,” he said. “Smart 5G and Fiber are powering all the connectivity in the gym, including the virtual audience.”

In the NBA bubble, 320 fans were invited to join the virtual audience on 17-foot high video walls around the court. Designated “home” teams were given the right to choose most of the fans. Participants entered the virtual audience through the Microsoft Teams “Together Mode” app on a device with a camera and microphone. Replacement was done as soon as anyone left a seat. If someone left for whatever reason, he or she had to be placed on the waiting list before taking a turn to reclaim the seat. It will be the same procedure in the PBA.

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