Jill King, senior vice president, consumer and partnership marketing, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, sees VR as a brand new market for creatives to explore. As part of this, Adult Swim just launched The Virtual Brainload, the first animated VR experience from a TV network.
“Virtual reality opens up traditional 2D animation by allowing for immersive experiences,” King says. “It will allow fans to go deeper and to be active participants. We try to pilot most ideas at Adult Swim and we approached this project as a test. We wanted to enter this space sooner rather than later, so we looked at doing a test with an initial low risk investment to determine if we should go further.”
King sees several big trends and opportunities emerging within virtual reality. The first is that it will be easier and more accessible for developers to develop content through new software kits, such as what Google just released, which will open things up. And the bigger opportunities on the horizon are social experiences and live streaming within virtual reality.
The Virtual Brainload, developed in partnership with WEVR, actually began life as Adult Swim’s Meatwad Full Dome 3D experience at San Diego Comic Con. Amantha Walden, senior director of events, and Dave Hughes, creator, in partnership with Golden Wolf, designed it to be a 360-degree immersive experience. Turner received great feedback from fans at the convention so King decided to use that as a starting point for a VR experience. It took three months for associate creative director Shawn Moore and his team to adapt the project for VR.
The Virtual Brainload recently launched on Google Play as a free app. It's designed for Google Cardboard, Google's VR platform that works with a combination of a low-cost VR viewer and a smartphone.
“For us, it’s more about giving fans a way to go deeper with the shows and characters they love, or a completely new Adult Swim experience not based on a show or gaming IP,” King says.
Launched in 2001 as a programming block by Turner Broadcasting System, a division of Time Warner (twx), Adult Swim offers original and acquired animated and live-action series for young adults and is currently basic cable’s #1 network, seen in 96 million U.S. homes.
“We know Adult Swim fans are first adopters and gamers and have invested in headsets or want to,” King says. “Google Cardboard is affordable, and we think the numbers will grow steadily and achieve scale in the coming years.”
King says Turner is actively talking to partners who are experimenting in this market, as well as those who want to but need to work with an entertainment partner to pull off an authentic and interesting experience.
“Innovation is core to our brand and virtual reality is an emerging space that we think we can have a lot fun in,” King says. “For us, it’s about developing interesting experiences and surprising our audience with whatever we do.”
Turner plans to release deeper, custom-created VR content to roll out later in 2015 and beyond.