TV ad-skipping technology makes it harder and harder for brands to actually reach consumers, which is more marketers and programmers are experimenting with virtual reality. As consumer adoption of VR takes off, more and more brands will start shifting their dollars in those directions—some of them tempted by what their media buyers are seeing at the NewFront digital ad sales pitches to agencies this week in New York.
That’s where Jaunt, which just launched a new content studio with Hollywood heavy hitters including Oscar-nominated director Paul Feig, announced a production deal with Condé Nast Entertainment to create two virtual reality series “that explore Condé Nast’s strong portfolio of travel, lifestyle, fashion, sports and technology content,” according to a press release.
Jaunt’s collaboration with Feig to create a VR experience for his new Yahoo! series, Other Space—part of Yahoo’s NewFront strategy to expand innovation video series—is being made available on Google Play for Google Cardboard and Android phones. “VR is the future and after working with Jaunt, I can see they are leading the way,” stated Feig.
The New York Times also announced at its NewFront presentation on Monday that it will continue to experiment with VR content for its users.
Its latest is a film about the production of the recent New York Times Magazine “Walking New York” cover, which features a 150-foot-tall image of an Azerbaijani immigrant by a French street artist virtually crossing the sidewalk in front of New York’s famed Flatiron building.
“From breaking news to creating in-depth features, Times journalists are using the medium to amplify our news report and bring rich, visual storytelling to new audiences,” said Bruce Headlam, the NYT’s managing editor for video, in a press release.
“VR is such a fascinating medium for journalism because two huge factors of VR are the feeling of transporting you to someplace and secondarily, but just as importantly, connecting you to the people inside of that place,” said Chris Milk, who brought VR to the recent Sundance Film Festival and who designed the Times virtual reality experience, to Wired.
It’s not just digital media brands that are getting into virtual reality. Spike TV’s Lip Sync Battle, hosted by LL Cool J and Chrissy Teigen, is becoming the first series to be shot in VR thanks to a partnership with Samsung’s Milk VR app, The Wrap reports.
The show, produced by Jimmy Fallon’s production company and inspired by his celebrity karaoke contest on NBC’s The Tonight Show, broke ratings records for adult viewers ages 18 to 49 in broadcast network TV history for a non-scripted debut, and ranked No. 1 in its timeslot across television, broadcast or cable. Its YouTube channel is also a big hit.
“We chose this show based on its share-ability,” says Casey Patterson, the head of talent development and production at Spike TV parent Viacom, to Wired. “The most important thing is connecting with your audiences in new and different ways. So, VR is so fresh and yet another way for someone to experience your” shows.
The virtual reality marketplace is poised to take off even without these innovative programming experiments. Business Insider’s BI Intelligence unit estimates that the shipment of VR headsets will grow at a 99 percent rate from 2015 to 2020 to become a $2.8 billion hardware market. While gaming is expected to drive most consumer purchases of VR headsets, the hardware also provides a big opportunity for streaming content and shopping, and a seamless customer experience for brands.
Tim Merel, managing director of Digi-Capital, thinks virtual reality and its interactive cousin, augmented reality, will become game-changers with the support of brands such as Microsoft and Apple. “AR could disrupt the mobile market, and Microsoft’s HoloLens could be the start of regaining the glory lost to Apple in the last decade,” he told Fortune.
Digi-Capital projects that the augmented reality marketplace alone will be worth $120 billion by 2020. “Apple’s legacy of innovation and smartphone and tablet strength puts it in a great place to enter the AR market,” Merel told Fortune.
Let the very real games begin.