With the success of the VR VMAs, there may be more to come from MTV.

By John Gaudiosi
September 1, 2015

MTV livestreamed this year’s Video Music Awards in 360-degree virtual reality, its first foray into the medium—one that’s been in the works for a while.

Jeff Jacobs, senior vice president of production planning, strategies & operations, at MTV, has had his eye on VR since 2009, but the technology didn’t catch up to what the Viacom-owned network VIAB was interested in until this year. MTV worked with firm IM360, and spent six months in research and development stage leading up to its first VR broadcast by the channel.

“360-degree VR isn’t necessarily the coolest new camera angle or latest parlor trick, but a new genre in the art of storytelling,” Jacobs says. “I don’t know if that replaces any other medium, but it’s another way of seeing the complete story. As people watch Taylor Swift sing, part of the story is what’s happening behind the audience and behind the cameras, and 360-degree video is a new genre to tell the story.”

IM360 creative director Ryan Whitehead explains that as more consumers purchase mobile VR head-mounted displays, MTV’s younger demographic will be able to choose between a 2D HD broadcast of the show and the 360-degree perspectives.

“VR isn’t going to replace traditional broadcasts, but serve as a new second screen experience,” Whitehead says. “In the future, all of the feeds will be piped through to a user interface in the headset that can be accessed through hand-based gestures, so you can rotate between the live feed or the 360-degree feed.”

MTV has the ability to explore 360-degree video because its audience is comprised of early adopters of new technology, according to Colin Helms, senior vice president of MTV connected content.

“They’re willing to try VR or second screen experiences,” Helms says. “Sometimes you show new technology like a 360-degree view to an older consumer they think there’s so much going on that they don’t know where to look. Our consumers are multi-taskers and can consume media on so many different levels. We’re constantly thinking about how to hone and test new things. If you look at livestreaming technology, our audience is quickly adopting that.”

Exploring 360-degree VR is a smart move on MTV’s part, and there will likely be more VR broadcasts to come, given how the industry is predicted to grow over the next several years. Tim Merel, managing director at Digi-Capital forecasts that augmented reality and virtual reality film and TV will become significant revenue drivers for Hollywood, generating well over $10 billion by 2020.

“Live events such as the Super Bowl or The VMAs will draw some of the largest concurrent audiences in AR/VR as they do today for current broadcasting/livestreaming,” Merel says. “The changes will come from how the events are watched and entirely new content formats taking advantage of AR/VR’s potential.”

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