Marking one of pay-TV's first big forays into virtual reality, European operator Sky has announced the formation of a VR production unit.
The new operation, called Sky VR Studio, will initially produce content for Facebook's 360-degree video platform, which is viable through the social network's website and mobile app. The Sky VR content will also be viewable through Facebook's Oculus platform, which is available to users of Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR headsets.
The studio said it will produce and release 20 VR videos in 2016, starting Friday with the release of two 360-degree programs focused on Formula One auto racing.
The Sky announcement comes as U.S. operators are beginning to make their own investments in virtual reality.
Venture capital arm Comcast Ventures, for example, has made a number of notable investments into VR companies. These investments include Redwood City, Calif.-based Baobab Studios, a VR animation studio founded by Maureen Fan, who was most recently served as VP of games at Zynga, and Eric Darnell, director of DreamWorks Animation's hit Madagascar film series.
Comcast Ventures also backs AltspaceVR, operator of an avatar-based VR experience akin to the virtual phenomenon Second Life, as well as NextVR, a company that specializes in broadcasting live events in VR -- everything from presidential debates to NBA basketball games.
"Everyone a year ago would have said it's all about video games, but games are costly and take time to produce," Michael Yang, who serves as managing director of the Silicon Valley office for Comcast Ventures, told FierceCable in an interview conducted in January. "Frankly, I see video content leading the charge. I think the other applications will come downstream."
Added Gary Davey, managing director, content at Sky: "The Sky VR Studio allows us to add a new dimension to storytelling, taking viewers to extraordinary places and offering a unique perspective on a whole host of events. The development of VR technology is moving at an incredible pace and excitement is building about its potential. Our expertise across a wide range of video content, from original drama to live sport, gives us a unique ability to bring VR to life for customers. This is just the start and we're looking forward to creating more amazing VR content and exploring the possibilities with our tech and content partners."
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