One-Third of Global Consumers Expected to Use VR by 2020, Says Study

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"VR will reignite the campfire experience of TV," according to the report, set for release Monday.

Something missing from the TV experience since video-on-demand and streaming media changed the dynamics is the so-called watercooler effect, whereby so many viewers watch the same episode of the same popular show on the same night then discuss it the next day at work.

Virtual reality, though, is set to reintroduce a similar sort of social aspect back into television, according to a study from Ericsson ConsumerLab that claims to represent the views of 1 billion media consumers worldwide.

"VR will reignite the campfire experience of TV," according to the study, set for release Monday.

The study says 10 percent of consumers already use a VR device in some capacity, largely in video gaming, while more than 25 percent are planning to purchase one.

In addition, when presented with a dozen options of how their media habits will change over the next five years, "I will watch TV in virtual reality" was tops at 30 percent, outscoring categories like: "I will talk to my devices instead of using buttons"; "I will get most of my news from social media"; and "I will get my live sports from streaming services."

While it might seem counterintuitive to imagine that wearing a bulky headset while immersing yourself in a 360-degree 3D media experience is a "social activity," consumers are buying into the notion and are anxious to enjoy movies and TV shows in this way, says the study.

"Friends and people with similar interests can watch content together in a VR living room; viewers have the freedom to look anywhere in every scene of a movie; and consumers can experience a football match or music concert with other fans in a VR arena, as if they actually there," says the study. "Almost 60 percent of current users believe that it will be a fundamental part of TV and video in the next five years."

For such rapid growth to become reality, though, the industry needs to bring down the cost of headsets and create more immersive content, and the TV industry should include VR in bundles of traditional channels and VOD.

The study bases its findings on online interviews with 20,000 people ages 16-69 in 13 countries.

"I can meet people from all over the world and watch videos with them on a giant virtual screen. So if you live alone like me, this is a big deal," said one interviewee when discussing VR.

Worldwide, one-third of consumers are expected to use VR by 2020, according to the study.

The study is about the state of TV and media in 2017, so it contains data aside from VR.

For example, the report indicates that about 70 percent of consumers already watch TV and video on their smartphones, twice as many as there were in 2012, and that people ages 16-19 spend more than half of their video-watching time viewing on-demand content, twice what it was in 2010.

Also, by 2020 "only one in 10 consumers will be stuck watching TV on a traditional screen," and consumers are watching a record-high 30 hours of video per week while spending nearly an hour per day searching for something to watch.