Want to Watch Your Favorite Shows in Virtual Reality? You May Be Able to, well, Someday.
When HBO released Game of Thrones season six last April, its Facebook page posted a 360 degree video of the opening scene. But making a single 360-degree teaser isn’t the same as making weekly episodes available in Virtual Reality format as the show goes on. It’s possible, though. “That’s what the major networks are doing these days,” said Matthew Collado, co-founder and chief content officer at Littlstar.
So what are the barriers?
The platforms are different. The mechanism isn’t like how Android works. App developers write Android applications available for users of all Android smartphones. But even at this early stage, VR hardware like Samsung GearVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR all have their own platforms and requirements. This proliferation of platforms — both in the form of VR hardware and the software behind it — makes content difficult to produce and consume.
This generates a gap in the market that NYC startup Littlstar hopes to fill by acting like a middleman. Littlstar provides a platform that allows brands to upload 360-degree photos or videos in web, mobile and VR formats, after which the Littlstar team will optimize the content to make it available on existing VR platforms of various providers, including Samsung GearVR, Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. The company is also now in the final approval process of signing a partnership with HTC Vive and is launching the presence in Sony PlayStation Store next month, according to Collado.
To run smoothly, tomorrow's cities will rely on millions of networked sensors to monitor everything from trash collection to water equality. Photo: Robert Libetti/The Wall Street Journal embed.littlstar.com
The site currently has more than thousands of videos in VR, mobile and web formats, including content from major networks. “New York City has so many agencies, marketing, advertising, all sorts, like Interpublic Group, a global marketing solution provider. They have client resources. Plus, several big networks are headquartered here like ABC and HBO. I travel in between Los Angeles and New York. New York is more of a business resource hub whereas LA is more for actual production,” Collado added.
Time and budget may also be considered obstacles. According to Collado, the VR video production budget varies largely based on equipment, deadlines, any specific animation or graphics and the overall quality requirement. “It could cost $100,000 or 1 million,” he said, “and it could be done in four weeks or in two to three months.”
It’s fairly reasonable for any consumer who has spent hundreds of dollars in purchasing VR hardware to expect to watch high quality content that is updated on a regular basis. Does this mean it adds up another difficulty for brands? Would you be willing to spend $50,000 on a barely acceptable quality, which may backfire, or spend several million dollars per episode to retain the audience? Game of Thrones has 10 episodes per season. That could be quite an investment and nobody knows about the return, yet.
Currently, Littlstar is free for consumers to watch and for brands to upload content. It just received $5.2 million in the series A funding in May of this year and has yet to confirm a profit model. “It could be ad-supported or subscription-based, or a combination of both, like Spotify,” Collado said. Then again, when all those become available, it’s the consumers’ turn to see what’s the best for them. But that day may still be a long way off.