2:30am PT by Georg Szalai
Sky VR App Launches, European Pay TV Giant Eyes Exclusive Commissions
Pan-European pay TV giant Sky on Monday took further steps toward offering more virtual reality content, unveiling the launch of a new app, dubbed Sky VR.
The free app "showcases a range of immersive, 360-degree videos from Sky, and the best content from Sky’s partners," including Walt Disney (Star Wars: Red Carpet, clips from The Jungle Book), Warner Bros. (Suicide Squad: Squad 360) and Fox Innovation Lab (The Martian Sneak Peek), the company said.
The first version of the app will give viewers a 360-degree video experience, but Sky said it would be adding more to the app over the coming months, " introducing more immersive VR features to improve the experience."
Sky has made VR a focus, earlier this year launching Sky VR studios, and committed to increasing its VR content offerings, including in the entertainment, sports and news areas. The company said that as part of its push, it will be giving away thousands of Google Cardboards to people at the O2 arena starting later this month as part of an ongoing relationship with Google.
Sky on Monday also announced two new VR content experiences. They are Sky Sports: Closer featuring David Beckham and, coming later this fall, the first of a series of exclusive commissions – a performance from English National Ballet’s production of Giselle ahead of its upcoming U.K. tour.
In Beckham's second piece of VR content for Sky Sports, the former soccer star enters a Sky VR simulator, which takes him and the viewer to visit top sporting events, including Formula 1 racing in Silverstone and a boxing match with Anthony Joshua.
In addition to the Giselle ballet offer, Sky said it would commission "a series of high-end VR experiences under the Sky VR Exclusives label." Produced both in-house by the Sky VR Studios and with third-party partners, the series will build on the company's commitment to create VR content.
Gary Davey, Sky's managing director, content, said: “Interest in VR content is building, generating more excitement every day. We are just at the beginning of our VR journey at Sky, launching Sky VR studios earlier this year, and we are already breaking new ground. Now comes the creative challenge of deploying this immersive experience with engaging storytelling. I am a big believer."
Stephen Nuttall, senior director at Google and YouTube, said: “Great storytelling from Sky, in VR, for free on YouTube, and all accessible through Google Cardboard -- a winning combination! Whether you’re passionate for sports or Beckham (or both!), this great partnership enables wonderful VR experiences for all to enjoy.”
At launch the Sky VR app will be home to around 20 pieces of 360-degree video content. They include:
Star Wars: Red Carpet, which gets fans closer to the red carpet at the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Anthony Joshua: Becoming World Champion, which shows the British boxer "as you have never seen him before" as he becomes IBF world heavyweight champion
Two The Jungle Book VR experiences, enabling viewers to get up close and personal with King Louie and Kaa
The Martian Sneak Peek, which transports viewers to Mars to follow the film’s protagonist Mark Watney after he gets stranded on the planet
Suicide Squad: Squad 360, which allows viewers tp see what it’s like being a member of the Suicide Squad during a scene from the film
Calais: The Jungle, which takes viewers to the center of the refugee crisis
Invasion, a VR animation about a duo of aliens aiming to take over the world, but needing to overcome two fearsome white bunnies
Paul McCartney: Dance Tonight, a content piece from Jaunt, in which Sky is an investor, which takes viewers through the creation story of the song and its music video.
Sky worked with Digital Domain to develop the VR app.