We previously talked about 6 hot virtual reality (VR) startups, and what became apparent is that VR is going nowhere fast without virtual reality content. With Microsoft the latest company to invest its billions in virtual reality with its $300 headsets launching from HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and Ace launch in spring 2017, next year is shaping up to be big for VR. Microsoft, which already provides an Xbox One controller and Windows 10 support for Oculus Rift, officially joins the ranks of Sony, Facebook, HTC, Samsung and Google. The biggest need for emerging virtual reality headsets across high-end PCs, console and mobile devices is quality content. While video games remain a key focus to lure consumers into VR, 360-degree video and computer animated VR content are on the rise. The following is a rundown of some of the leading companies creating non-gaming virtual reality content.
Founded in 2009, NextVR was valued at $800 million before its most recent $80 million Series B round from many Asian companies and big names like SoftBank, Time Warner Investments, Comcast Ventures, the Madison Square Garden Co. and Dick Clark Productions. With over $116 million raised to date, NextVR has been busy creating livestreamed 360-degree content. The company has a 25-game schedule of livestreamed NBA games this season, which follows a five-year pact with Fox Sports to bring sports like NASCAR, NCAA basketball and the U.S. Open to VR headsets. The Company has also worked with the Kentucky Derby, the Masters, the International Champions Cup and MLB on the home run derby. It’s not just sports that NextVR is catering to but also live concerts as well. The Company is working with Live Nation who is said to control 70-80% of all concert ticket sales, and it’s probably just a matter of time before every event they sell tickets for is offered with a virtual reality option which raises questions about possible business models. Since our last article on NextVR , the company unveiled a new logo and a “re-energized consumer brand” which is marketing speak for “our technology is ready and we want to make a big entrance”.
Founded in 2013, Jaunt has raised over $100 million to date. The Company’s latest Series C round of $65 million was led by The Walt Disney Company and counted Google Ventures and Madison Square Garden as investors. Jaunt began by producing 360-degree short form entertainment like Black Mass and Kaiju Fury. These days, the Palo Alto company’s Jaunt Studios Los Angeles production arm is working with Sky, ABC News and Conde Nast to create original 360-degree programming. The company has also worked with the NHL to bring segments around the NHL All-Star Game to VR headsets. Jaunt is also bringing eSports (professional video gaming) to VR through a partnership with ESL in addition to working with corporate brands like The North Face. Jaunt not only produces content but also offers clients the cameras, rigs and software to develop their own 360-degree along with expertise and consulting. The Jaunt VR app, available on all virtual reality platforms, also serves as a gateway into headsets for clients and content makers. Jaunt was featured in our previous article on 6 hot virtual reality startups to watch.
Founded in 2014, Littlstar has done a lot with a little money. The startup has raised a total of $6.37 million in two rounds from investors including The Walt Disney Company, which had the company in its Disney Accelerator startup mentorship program. Littlstar is an official partner of Sony’s PlayStation VR platform, which will tap into Sony’s global install base of 46 million PlayStation 4s over the coming years. The Littlstar app, which is also available on Oculus Rift, Gear VR, HTC Vive, Apple TV, the Web and Android and iOS platforms, features curated channels from partners like ABC, Showtime, Discovery, Nat Geo Wild, Mandt VR, PBS, Bento Box, Wargaming and Esquire. In addition to its technology, Littlstar is also working with Hollywood to bring branded 360-degree content to its app. For example, the company worked with ABC and Lexus on an original Quantico virtual reality content experience featuring actors from the show.
Virtual reality content creator EVR Holdings subsidiary MelodyVR Ltd. hopes to be the iTunes of VR heardsets. The company has raised over $4.5 million to launch its MelodyVR platform across Samsung’s Gear VR, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Android and iOS apps. The company had a soft launch of its service through Telefonica Germany this summer. The startup, which was founded in 2015, has used 18 months of development to secure over 300 artists and film a wide range of concerts in 360-degrees. The app will offer a wide selection of VR experiences across music genres like classical (the London Symphony Orchestra), rock (Fall Out Boy) and electronic (Annie Mac). Moving forward, MelodyVR will use its custom camera technology to open sold out concerts and music festivals to fans around the globe. Fans will be able to listen to concerts in 360-degree audio.
An offshoot of Hollywood production company Mandt Bros which launched in 2001, Mandt VR is focused on full-service 360-degree VR production. Mandt Bros. has produced over 3,000 episodes of television shows so far, including the sports show Rome is Burning with Jim Rome, and Walt Disney Pictures’ Million Dollar Arm. On the VR front, Mandt VR has signed a deal to 360-degree livestream premiere PodcastOne show talent, including Shaquille O’Neil and Adam Carolla. The company is also working with clients like Oklahoma State University to use virtual reality content to connect with new customers.
In December 2015, Hong Kong-listed Digital Domain Holdings (HKG:0547) paid $39 million for a 66.6% majority stake in Canadian virtual reality technology company Immersive Media. The two companies previously worked together in launching IM360, which Digital Domain Holdings (DDHL) has a 50% stake in. IM360 has created live and video on demand 360-degree video experiences for MTV at the Video Music Awards, ABC’s Good Morning America, Nike with soccer star Neymar and the Emmy-winning “Black Space” Taylor Swift 360-degree music video. This collaboration with IM360 and Immersive Media is part of a bigger push by the Hollywood special effects company into VR. In June 2016, DDHL acquired game studio Digital Funk Machine and launched Digital Domain Interactive, which will focus on developing VR games.
Retail investors should pay attention here because DDHL is a publicly traded stock on the Hong Kong Stock exchange with a market cap of around USD $1 billion. It also looks like they may trade in the U.S. as an ADR on the over-the-counter (OTC) market so we’ll have to take a closer look at them in a future article. It’s not likely that they seeing virtual reality content impact their revenues significantly but we can’t say that without taking a closer look under the hood.
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