Fans that have been waiting for the midseason premiere of ABC’s drama, Quantico, can now dive into an exclusive virtual reality mission that connects with the on-going TV series. Quantico: The Takedown is the Disney-owned network’s first foray into scripted 360-degree storytelling.
It’s also a new avenue for sponsors to connect directly with tech-savvy audience members. Takedown was sponsored by Lexus, a division of Toyota (TM) and the opening and closing portions of the 3 ½-minute experience takes place inside the backseat of a Lexus LX 570 SUV, while the outside of the vehicle is featured a few times.
MaryJane Kroll, media manager at Lexus, says the car company has a lot of experience using virtual reality technology and knows it can showcase its vehicles in unexpected ways.
“We had the idea to do a scripted virtual reality experience, but needed a partner who could do this authentically,” Kroll says. “By working with the show’s writers and producers we found a way to show off the LX, while allowing the audience to literally get closer to the characters and plot lines.”
Scripted by the ABC Studios’ show writers, the virtual reality experience puts the viewer in the role of a new recruit on a mission with FBI trainees Shelby Wyatt (Johanna Braddy) and Caleb Haas (Graham Rogers) as they track down and apprehend their assigned target. This connects directly with the March 6 episode, which airs at 10 p.m. EST.
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Jeffrey Weinstock, vice president and creative director at ABC Integrated Marketing, says a lot of virtual reality work that’s been done to date has been more observational. As an example, the recent “GMA on Safari” virtual reality event on Feb. 23 featured a stationary IM360 camera in Tanzania, Africa.
“Our goal with Quatico from a VR standpoint was to make sure the storytelling was front and center,” Weinstock says. “With VR, the viewer is in the car with our actors. It’s a much deeper level of engagement for a sponsor while still remaining organic and true to the storyline.”
Because Quantico is a complex, episodic show with a tangled web of different characters, Weinstock says this standalone experience was designed to work for viewers who don’t watch the show, and offer something for fans.
Weinstock says the experience includes two Easter eggs that can be found while scanning the footage. The first unlocks bonus footage from the midseason premiere. The second, which is visible in the headset, provides telling insight into one of the characters’ motives and connection to terrorist activities. A 30-second commercial and a behind-the-scenes featurette are also available for users to view.
“From a storytelling standpoint it’s an exciting new avenue to explore creatively,” Weinstock says.
The infux of virtual reality mobile devices is opening up a larger audience for this type of content. Google (GOOG) has distributed over 5 million Cardboards. Samsung, which gave away Gear VR for free to Galaxy S7 purchasers, is expected to sell 5 million Gear VRs this year, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Travis Jackel. And both HTC Vive and the Facebook (FB) Oculus Rift begin shipping to consumers this month and next.
To connect with as large an audience as possible, ABC turned to virtual reality network Littlstar. Tony Mugavero, CEO and founder of Littlstar, says the company worked closely with ABC to get this experience into the hands of Quantico fans on whatever VR-capable device they have, whether that’s a headset, with the family around an Apple (APPL) TV, or on their phone.
Weinstock says to walk TV fans through all of the options, ABC built a “QuanticoVR” micro-site to make it easy for anyone to experience the 360-degree short.
“We’re seeing opportunities around the exploration of VR based on the cool factor and the newness of the technology today, but as VR penetration grows the appetite for this type of content will grow. And you’ll see more and more of it.”
Weinstock says the key for developing future experiences was to get this first one produced and out the door. The production team began work on The Takedown in mid-January to have it ready in time for the Quantico midseason premiere. Now they can not only share this experience with the world, and other potential sponsors, but also outline the production insights across Disney (DIS).
“There’s a tremendous amount of virtual reality exploration across ABC and Disney,” Weinstock says. “We’re one small partner in this. We want to produce in this space.