- NBCUniversal and Google partnered to create original virtual reality (VR) content to accompany popular shows from networks like NBC, Bravo, E! and Telemundo, according to a press release. The duo plans to produce at least 10 multi-episode productions that viewers can watch in 360-degrees on YouTube's website or mobile app or have a more immersive experience using the Google Cardboard or Daydream View headsets.
- NBC's "Saturday Night Live," Bravo Media's "Vanderpump Rules" and the Syfy Wire, the website for Syfy channel, will be the first to offer VR episodes.
- Google will produce this immersive content on its Jump platform that combines high-tech VR cameras and automated stitching for videos. The company plans to also produce some VR content for VR180, a new video format using 4K, 3D video.
The partnership with NBCUniversal is a way for Google to develop more premium content with the potential to lure audiences and ad dollars and leverage NBCUniversal's expertise in producing video content. Other partnerships include deals with HBO, Netflix, NFL, NBA, Discovery, Vogue and Nat Geo. Google is continuing to develop its technology to create VR experiences, including Jump, the company’s platform for VR video capture that launched in 2015.
Google and NBCUniversal's deal is a clear effort to make VR mainstream and give people another reason to test out the tech company's headsets that haven't seen much traction over the years. While VR technology provides immersive experiences that aren't available in other media, the extra equipment expense, greater resource investment and lack of compelling content has so far made the technology feel more like a fad than a revolutionary way of transporting people into virtual environments. That day will come, but in the meantime, technology companies and content producers are experimenting with 360-degree video, the lightest form of VR, to prepare themselves for mass adoption of immersive experiences among consumers.
NBCUniversal, with this deal, gets to update its content and create more immersive experiences for hardcore fans who seek out more information about their favorite shows and celebrities and crave additional content. The partnership with Google follows several other initiatives to create VR shows and experiences. The media giant this year worked with Intel and Oculus to bring Winter Olympics content to headsets. The NBC Sports VR app provided viewers with 50 hours of coverage from 30 events at the winter games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The tie-up comes as sales of VR and augmented reality (AR) devices are estimated to reach $1.8 billion this year, according to a report from CCS Insight, which predicts 22 million headsets will be sold this year. Unit sales will grow exponentially to reach 121 million by 2022. Smartphone VR headsets like the Samsung Galaxy Gear will make up most of the unit sales, but higher-priced headsets like the HTC Vive Focus and Microsoft HoloLens will comprise two-thirds of the $9.9 billion market in the next four years, per TechRadar.