EXCLUSIVE: Virtual Reality is an interesting feature for content producers. But can it be a lucrative business for ad-supported media? Sony Pictures Television believes it can: Its Crackle streaming service will unveil at its upfront presentation today what it calls a “first ever” multipart plan for an ad-supported VOD platform to bring sponsors into the 360-degree picture.
“We contemplated a strategy with the advertiser in mind,” Crackle GM Eric Berger tells me. It was a response to brands that “that have been coming to us and want to be involved” in VR.
To appreciate why, remember that his operation also handles ad sales for Sony’s PlayStation. Last month it announced plans to begin selling its PlayStation VR headset in October. “VR is an important area for PlayStation,” Berger says.
One part of Crackle’s plan involves what it calls a VR theater. Those watching its shows through a VR headset will see programs as though they’re in a home or movie theater. When they turn their gaze away from the main screen they may see logos on the seats, or elsewhere.
The theater will open opportunities for buyers to insert their own VR ads.
Crackle also will create its own VR content. It has ordered a VR special to be made from its stop-motion animated series, SuperMansion, from Bryan Cranston and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. The service plans to produce “extra VR content” from other original series that advertisers can sponsor.
The initiative also includes a deal with LG Electronics to provide VR content for its new G5 smartphone, with swapable modules designed to make it a powerful entertainment and gaming device — including for VR.
It will partner with Crackle to promote its original drama, StartUp, with Martin Freeman, to debut in Q3. Starting today the companies will show what they call “an innovative marketing program anchored by enhanced behind-the-scenes 360 degree footage taken by the LG 360 CAM.”
The plans are a bit of an experiment: Crackle will “try some VR with each of the original shows and see where it goes,” Berger says. He’s still developing measures of success, although he’s particularly interested in engagement.
Crackle targets 18 to 34 year olds, especially males. The GM says that likely ad buyers for his VR offerings would come from electronics, quick-serve restaurants, and auto makers.
Sony’s chief competitor in VR is Facebook’s Oculus Rift, which is aligned with Microsoft’s Xbox One. Oculus began to take headset orders in January, although it estimates that they’ll ship in August.
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