VR Week: Netflix and Sky see VR as the new frontier for television


Some of the giants of the television world are brimming with optimism for the arrival of VR, with the likes of Netflix and Sky joining star names in proclaiming the potential of virtual storytelling.

VR’s second coming is gathering momentum, and the arrival of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR will accelerate that process.

But it is the amount of content that may prove to be an issue, with one production studio head, Anthony Geffen, telling us that, even though he is backing VR to succeed, he is also expecting a consumer backlash as soon as September.

That means that major players need to be producing content now, and Netflix’s Vice President of Product Development Chris Jaffe suggested that the company was looking to build beyond a simple app for the proliferating (but limited) phone-based VR like Samsung’s GearVR.

“VR in the near term might be seen as something for gaming but we’re interested too,” he said. “My personal take is I’m interested in seeing where the storytelling aspects develop.

“Of course there’s a technical side with technology but at heart the important thing is the story and my feeling is that it has to lead there. Consumers want stories to be told in various ways.”

VR from Sky

European TV giant Sky has gone a step further and set up a studio to try to be part of the vanguard in VR.

“Sky is uniquely placed and we are always been looking at new ways to get content out there – we have access to movies, TV and sport, and we need to populate VR with mind-blowing content,” Sky VR exec producer Neil Graham told us.

“We have set up Sky VR Studio and have resources on post-production. We are training people up and have four dedicated VR operators – we will compete and work with the major players.”

However, another early player in VR, Atlantic Productions and its Alchemy VR wing, is sounding a sensible note of caution, with head Geffen explaining: “What we’re not getting fast enough is a lot of powerful VR experiences that will make people think ‘Wow this is a great new medium’.

“That’s quite dangerous. There are a few amazingly good films but not enough that people will truly engage with.”

Vive headset

Good VR is expensive to make, so why so much excitement?

“I never watched a 3D programme that got me engaged as VR. With the music and the ability to transport to somewhere different, it means that you are more immersed,” explains Graham.

Geffen’s take is similar: “When it hits the sweet spot it’s completely different from anything else and so immersive. It’s very exciting.”

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