The below post is part of Found Remote's 2016 Year in Review guest post series and is written by George Kliavkoff, President & CEO, Jaunt.
TV will add a layer of VR programming in 2017
Among the many noteworthy TV moments from the last year, the release of Netflix’s Stranger Things stands out—not for the critical acclaim, the made-for-binging pacing, or even the fact that Netflix is on a historic hot streak of producing original series. What caught my attention was that the streaming video company that epitomizes the new era of TV embraced another transformative technology in its rollout of the series: It released a virtual reality experience.
And Netflix wasn’t the only one. From HBO’s Game of Thrones to USA’s Mr. Robot to ESPN’s College GameDay to NBC’s Timeless, 2016 was the year that VR emerged as a powerful new form of video that deepens engagement between media companies and their audiences. With Facebook and YouTube’s embrace of 360 video, as well as the release of consumer VR headsets, this past year introduced VR into the public’s vocabulary in a meaningful way—and media companies vying for new ways to get their audience’s attention took note.
While film and television have traditionally been the most emotionally evocative forms of storytelling, what anybody who puts on a VR headset discovers is that being immersed in a story is a uniquely powerful experience. And that feeling has been reinforced by data: A recent Nielsen report that found consuming content in VR elicits a 27% higher emotional engagement than it does in a 2D environment.
When we talk to our media partners about why they’re spending time and effort in VR, it’s because they want to tap into that emotion. They’re looking at ways of taking the IP that they already create for television or film and creating additional, immersive layers of content that bring their most ardent fans closer to the story. Instead of watching Star Wars, for example, they want to take fans on a ride in an X-Wing or put them on set during the filming of Rogue One. VR gives them a way to bridge the gap between storytelling and the consumer that they simply can’t accomplish with flat video.
Committing to VR in 2017
We’re now hearing in the marketplace that the companies that dipped their toes in the water in 2016 are now diving in completely in 2017. While VR experiments had previously been funded by small R&D budgets in their video spend—the same budgets that initially explored experimental ideas like video streaming, mobile video, and Snapchat—almost all of the brands we talk to have VR as a dedicated line item in their 2017 video budgets.
As a result, we’ll see significantly more VR experiences that put us inside the shows and movies we’ve grown to love watching on screen. Millions will continue to discover them as 360 videos that appear on our newsfeeds, but as a wider variety of headsets continue to come to market, mainstream audiences will graduate to the fully immersive experiences. The recent releases of PlayStation VR, with its existing customer base of 42 million PS4 owners, and the $79 Google Daydream are promising signs of what’s to come.
2016 was the year VR emerged as an intriguing form of media. I believe 2017 will be its inflection point, with a steady pipeline of premium content produced by media companies and a growing VR audience hungry for immersive entertainment.