From augmented reality phenom Pokemon Go to the immersive marketing Warner Bros and Samsung just unleashed for “Suicide Squad” to NBCU’s plans for select Olympic coverage, the VR train is flying out of the station. Likening its momentum to the cable industry in the early ’90s, Jim Chabin, president of the newly christened VR Society, advises cable programmers to get on board. Fast. Chabin suggests those ready to dip a toe in the water start with 360-degree content that can be viewed on cell phones without the need for additional equipment. “360 is relatively easy to produce and a pretty cost-effective way to create content and put it in a place where you can drive traffic,” he said. “Right now, if you download the New York Times VR app you could be standing at the top of the World Trade Center or be at a Hillary Clinton rally. It’s something all viewers can have access to.”
Even loftier 3D VR can certainly be a goal. “They’re shipping thousands of Oculus Rifts [owned by Facebook ], but they’re not sending out tens of millions of them yet. Playstation comes out this fall,” he said of the new Sony VR console slated for release Oct. 13. “But everyone right away can use their cell phone.” Among the nuts and bolts of production, content creators “need to be thinking about where to place sound cues, how to light it, do you have a script, do you not have a script?,” Chabin noted. Vendors including NextVR, Voke VR and VRtify are lining up to hawk their services. VRtify CEO Facundo Diaz advises programmers to allow as many perspective options as possible for viewers, and mind the length of VR content, particularly for live events. “It’s very important that the content is not too long. Typically in a deal for us, concert [footage] should be between three minutes and eight minutes,” he told CFX. VRtify, which last year secured a seed round of $3.2 million from Angel Ventures VC and additional private investors, has deals primarily with music artists and labels, including Sony and BMG. In October it will launch its VR platform with content including Lollapalooza in several South American countries, and shows staged at the DirecTV Arena in Buenos Aires. “We recommend defining the key moments of the event, and inviting the users to attend that particular moment,” Diaz said. Given the convergence of technologies around immersion experiences, the company is also covering its bases and launching an L.A.-based AR studio. “VR started mixing with augmented reality and we are now working with Microsoft on an augmented reality version of Vrtify.” A key component of the augmenting VR story is advertising, Chabin said. “Networks should be talking to sponsors because many of them have VR ads they are putting together they want to get in front of consumers now.
Right now, the marketing and promotion and advertising budgets are what’s funding the creation of VR.” The most common questions the VR Society is fielding from programmers? “How do we create something, and how do we monetize it? Where is the business model here? Can I include it in my subscription?,” Chabin said. “Those are the questions that have not yet been answered.” – Cathy Applefeld Olson