NEXT explores the “Wild West” of the VR market
by Vassilis Economou
- CANNES NEXT: At the “Monetising of VR Content” conference organised by DFCN, the threats and financial challenges of the new medium were explored in great detail
Without a doubt, the “Monetising of VR Content” conference was one of the most successful of this year’s NEXT programme, as the conference room was literally packed and the audience was following the discussion even from outside. Moderated by Ryland Aldrich (ScreenAnarchy), and featuring key speakers including Alfredo Guilbert (DFCN), Kane Lee (the CEO of Baobab Studios), and VR evangelist Shannon Norrell (HP), the conference was aimed at addressing all of the possible challenges and threats of the newly created VR market.
The speakers agreed that as the market stands currently, it is only possible to offer the content for free initially, as the goal is to expose people to the experience, and we should expect this to escalate quickly into a bigger audience. Also, it is too early for everyone to put a price on the product, as this will lead to a benchmark that everyone will later have to either compete with or surpass. As Guilbert mentioned, “The VR market is the Wild West, and some people need to test the water.”
Another key issue is the format of the medium, as the episodic form of distribution is the most popular and most efficient, and there is currently no infrastructure to enable a purchase after each experience. No subscription-based streaming services exist, or at least they are not as advanced as they are when it comes to other media, and there is no possibility of in-app purchases for binge watching. While there is a huge demand for content, we are still far from seeing the necessary levels. Lee underlined, “The VR market is quite fragmented, and there is not yet a high quality of content available.” On the same topic, Guilbert added, “DFCN is sitting on the fence right now, as subscription has a cost to formulate, and we need to watch the market in order to mature.”
Norrell was more enthusiastic when it came to the future of VR, as he believes it is a very personal experience and must be experienced by each person separately. It is not something that can be described, so more people will need to be exposed to it. Also, as VR evolves, we are not far off a time when different forms of out-of-the-home entertainment, which might include the cinema, music and VR, will be priced equally, and this will entail the same level of dollars-per-minute entertainment.
The final topic was the evolution of the storytelling itself, something that would allow VR content to be more easily monetised and, on top of that, give the viewer the opportunity to avoid the linear narrative that is still so dominant and have a random selection of events. Experimenting with random threads and multiple narrative arcs is the future: this will also allow movie theatres to have at least one screening room dedicated to VR in the near future. The conference concluded with a lively Q&A, with the audience and everyone else agreeing that we are still in an experimental phase and that “content is king”.
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