Next TV

Brands, Content Players Plot 360 Ploys

SubVRsive carves out a slice of the VR content production market 2/27/2017 8:00 AM Eastern

NextVR and Jaunt have claimed their stakes in the emerging market for virtual reality and 360-degree video production, but the volume of work available from brands, programmers and game designers in this area will ensure there is plenty of wealth to spread around.

Looking to carve out a slice of the VR market is SubVRsive, an Austin, Texas- based startup that recently landed a $4 million “A” financing round from ad and media agency WPP.

SubVRsive, which bills itself as a “full service” virtual reality and augmented reality company, is a startup, but has already completed a sizable body of work for big names that include Lionsgate, MTV, Comcast and Showtime. Showtime, for example, worked with SubVRsive for a VR production of a recent WBC World Heavyweight Title boxing match between Deontay Wilder and Artur Szpilka, and for The Circus, a documentary series that followed then-presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

BEYOND EXPERIMENTAL

“The inbound demand for our service has been steady and strong,” Johannes Larcher, SubVRsive’s new CEO, said. “They all want to experiment with this new form of storytelling … But we’re starting to get beyond the experimentation stage.”

Larcher, who previously handled Hulu’s international business, said SubVRsive is focused on all forms of VR and AR experiences that can be post-produced or livestreamed, with a particular focus on media companies, including advertisers looking to promote products using 360-degree video.

Though there’s money coming in the door already, the funding will enable Sub- VRsive to pursue the next phase of its business and take on more work, with WPP on board to help open new relationships and doors that the startup might not be able to crack completely on its own.

SubVRsive claims to play across the entire value chain of production, from helping to generate ideas and concepts to executing them to getting the campaigns distributed.

For now, SubVRsive uses open-market VR and AR technology rather than proprietary camera systems and production software, holding that such an approach keeps costs in check. Given that platforms like Facebook, YouTube and smartphone-connected VR headsets are among the most popular early outlets for 360-degree video, most of its work is done in a monoscopic point of view.

“We’re pretty pragmatic,” Larcher said.

NextVR, which focuses on sports and other live events, is counted among SubVRsive’s market rivals, but Larcher said its main competition might come from the internal marketing teams of media agencies or the brands themselves, as they start to delve into the new VR world.

VR production “looks easy from the outside,” he said. “But doing it well is a whole different ballgame.”

And other specialists are out there. Felix & Paul Studios, which counts Comcast Ventures among its backers, is one prime example.

INTERACTIVITY KEY

Looking ahead, Larcher said interactive video will play a big role in the future of VR and 360-degree video as ad-makers, game-makers and content studios seek out ways to give the viewer more freedom to explore different rooms and viewpoints.

“Interactive 360 is becoming very important to us,” he said.

And while SubVRsive is currently a services company, it does have some ambitions to develop original content and some other business models that can take advantage of its intellectual property. “We’re not banking our chips all in one spot,” Larcher said.

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