Virtual reality (VR) is one of the big breakout trends of the past few years, but the nascent technology faces some obstacles if it’s ever to truly go mainstream — and one of those is the lack of content.
While the applications for VR in gaming are well understood, for the fledgling medium to reach scale it needs to infiltrate the broader entertainment realm, something that Samsung is now going full steam ahead on.
A couple of months after unveiling a refreshed Gear VR headset, the Korean electronics giant has announced a slate of entertainment initiatives designed to propel VR into mainstream consciousness. With the VR Live Pass, Samsung is offering myriad live events from mixed martial arts company UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), extreme sports event X Games, and live entertainment corporation Live Nation.
Kicking off on June 3, Samsung will live broadcast in VR the much-anticipated UFC Featherweight Championship unification bout between José Aldo and Max Holloway from Rio de Janeiro, which will be followed by the X Games in Minneapolis from July 13 – 16. Then in August, Samsung says music fans “will get the best seats in the house” to watch a major music artist perform live.
This isn’t the first time Samsung has invested in entertainment partnerships to encourage VR uptake. Last summer, it teamed up with NBC to bring 85 hours of VR coverage from the Rio Olympic Games, while it also partnered with Six Flags to launch VR roller coasters in amusement parks.
Samsung debuted its new flagship S8 and S8+ smartphones back in March, and those who purchased one of the devices on preorder were also given a Gear VR headset and controller gratis. Normally, the headset / controller package costs $130, so this giveaway helped to highlight how desperate Samsung was for mindshare in the increasingly competitive VR industry.
But the bottom line is that people won’t use their VR headsets if there isn’t any decent content, which is why Samsung is encouraging mainstream sports and music companies to broadcast their events in VR.
“Partnering with these companies to expand our VR services helps us to open up a new gateway of opportunities for fans and demonstrate our commitment to delivering experiences that make the seemingly impossible, possible,” said Younghee Lee, CMO and executive vice president at Samsung.
The VR Live Pass will be available through the main Samsung VR app from early June, and as an added incentive to wear the VR headset, Samsung said that the pass will be free.