George Kliavkoff is leaving Hearst Corp to become CEO of virtual reality company Jaunt. The move comes at a time when talent agencies, studios and even cameramen are gearing for a wave of VR content as the industry looks for the next level in pushing the envelope of entertainment. Jaunt is the company that has received funding from prominent media companies and venture capital firms including The Walt Disney Company, Evolution Media Partners, China Media Capital, Highland Capital Partners, Google Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Axel Springer, ProSiebenSat.1 SE, The Madison Square Garden Company, Peter Gotcher and Sky.
Also interesting is that Jaunt just expanded into the Middle Kingdom with the launch of Jaunt China in partnership with Shanghai Media Group and China Media Capital. It also just opened offices in Amsterdam and London. “It will be the first of many international joint ventures,” Kliavkoff told Deadline.
Kliavkoff will join the company effective today and be based in Palo Alto, CA, but will be commuting back and forth to Santa Monica where Jaunt has its content-creating studio. Jaunt founder Arthur van Hoff, who has served as interim CEO, will resume his role as chief technology officer at the 3-year-old company. Hoff is an engineer, also based in Palo Alto. He began the company with former CEO and co-founder Jens Christensen.
Hoff said that when they launched the company, they had to develop 360 cameras to realize their vision. “We had to because there were no cameras available. It’s not our core business, but we have an unfair advantage,” he joked.
So the marriage of Kliavkoff, the business mind, and Hoff the engineer seems well matched.
Previously, Kliavkoff worked at Hearst as co-president of Entertainment & Syndication, Hearst’s largest operating division responsible for the company’s interests in cable TV networks including ESPN, Lifetime, A&E and History; television production and distribution; newspaper syndication; and merchandise licensing.
In addition the executives also had the additional title of president of Hearst Ventures, which has made strategic investments in companies combining media and tech.
Prior to Hearst, Kliavkoff was chief digital officer at NBCUniversal, where he was among the team responsible for the creation and launch of Hulu.com. While there, he vastly expanded NBCU’s digital media strategy, developing new business models and markets and overseeing the distribution of video and other products and services across digital platforms.
Prior to NBCU, he was an executive vice president for Major League Baseball Advanced Media.
With a continued focus on aggressive growth globally in the area of immersive entertainment, Jaunt recently announced the public availability of its industry-leading end-to-end VR pipeline consisting of the Jaunt ONE camera, Jaunt Cloud Services and the Jaunt Publishing distribution platform.
Kliavokoff said that they plan to develop content through the Santa Monica-based studio for brands and their agencies. “VR, when done well, is an emotionally immersive experience,” he said. “We plan to create content for many different brands.”
Recent content releases and partnerships have included a multi-year exclusive deal with ESL, a documentary series with Paul McCartney, and work with the MLB Hall of Fame, culminating in more than 100 cinematic VR experiences.
The Jaunt VR App, including all content released to date, is available on iOS, Android, Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Desktop 360. “There are more than 100 VR experiences already on our app, and there’s a lot more to come,” Kliavkoff said.