We’ve written before about how augmented reality (AR) may be the biggest opportunity for investors ever. All kinds of exciting startups are popping up in the virtual reality (VR) space leading us to believe that soon we will not be able to imagine a world without AR/VR. When you think about applications for VR, you probably first think of movies and games, but one huge market to claim will be streaming events live in virtual reality. We’re not just talking about smaller events like weddings or family get togethers, we’re talking about the world’s biggest sporting events and most popular music concerts. One company looking to offer virtual reality concerts and virtual reality sports is NextVR.
Founded in 2009, Laguna Beach California startup NextVR has taken in $115 million in funding so far from investors that include Time Warner, Comcast, and The Madison Square Garden Company. In addition to these strategic investors, FOX Sports, Live Nation, NBC Sports, HBO/Golden Boy, Turner Sports, and CNN have all partnered with NextVR to create a wide range of scheduled programs. The majority of NextVR’s latest Series B round of funding comes from high-profile investors throughout Asia in the entertainment, content and technology markets. That funding round was the biggest amount received by any VR company with the exception of the massive amounts of cash that have been poured into secretive VR startup Magic Leap.
Virtual reality sports took off late last year and since then NextVR has live streamed the Kentucky Derby in 360 HD virtual reality using 7 cameras, Fox Sports live streamed the U.S. Open at Oakmont in VR, and various other sporting events have been live streamed like basketball and NASCAR.
As for virtual reality concerts being streamed live, NextVR has partnered with a company called Live Nation which takes in over $4 billion a year in event revenues. Live Nation promotes or produces over 22,000 events, including music concerts, with total attendance exceeding 50 million—more than the NBA, NFL, and NHL combined. With Live Nation said to control 70-80% of all concert ticket sales, it’s only a matter of time before every event they sell tickets for is offered with a virtual reality option which brings us to questions about possible business models.
For virtual reality sports, do you just make the majority available for free aside from pay-per-view events like boxing which could command some premium dollars? Will this just become the new way for sports fans to watch their sports in the same way that high-definition TV has become the norm? A lot of the revenues that come from televised sports like the Superbowl are the commercial slots that are sold. Will all advertisers now need to have two versions of a commercial, a normal one and a virtual reality one?
Virtual reality concerts on the other hand have a potential business model that’s much easier to imagine. Since these are “virtual seats” they all have the same view (or do they?) and you charge a fee that won’t be so cheap as to cannibalize your real ticket sales but not so expensive that nobody wants to buy them. For virtual reality concert tickets, there is no limit on the number of tickets you can sell.
In the case of both virtual reality concerts and virtual reality sporting events, you can always charge people to watch events that happened in the past. From now going forward, we can assume that it will become standard practice to record all major events that take place using virtual reality cameras. The methods of recording and techniques in making it seem “real” will only improve such that this will soon become the preferred way of viewing any event aside from actually being there.
For now, the NextVR platform only supports the Samsung VR Gear device which has an affordable price point of around $100.00. Right now you can actually pick one up for around $69 by clicking the below picture:
It is anticipated that eventually all other VR hardware platforms will also be supported. If you’ve attended any NextVR events, drop a note in the comments below as we’d love to hear what people think of this relatively new but potentially very disruptive technology application for virtual reality.
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