Verizon’s AOL has agreed to acquire RYOT, a small independent media company and virtual-reality content studio founded by a group of humanitarian aid workers and filmmakers, which will become part of the Huffington Post’s global video operations.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. L.A.-based RYOT has about 25 employees. RYOT will join Huffington Post to deliver films, linear video, 360-degree and VR content for HuffPost’s 15 global editions, and AOL also will tap RYOT to deliver immersive branded content for advertising clients.
Huffington Post has previously worked with RYOT on coverage of the refugee crisis in Greece, a project that combined “technology and storytelling to put flesh and blood on a human crisis that, for far too many around the world, had become an abstraction,” said Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post. “It’s just the beginning of what we can do together covering news events, leading cultural conversations on a global scale, and going beyond raising awareness to making a difference in people’s lives.”
In addition to Huffington Post, other AOL properties including Autoblog, Build, Engadget, Makers and TechCrunch will also have access to RYOT’s VR capabilities.
RYOT founders Bryn Mooser, David Darg and Martha Rogers have produced 360-degree and virtual reality experiences spanning the globe, including documenting a Syrian war zone and the destruction following the Nepal earthquake. The studio earned a 2016 Academy Award nomination for best documentary short for “Body Team 12,” about the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia.
“The Huffington Post blazed the trail by empowering people to tell their own stories in their own voices,” Mooser said in a statement. “RYOT is born out of that same mission. Together, we’ll bring our immersive virtual reality storytelling to their global news network and we couldn’t be more excited.”
RYOT also garnered attention last fall when it released what it claimed was the first documentary film shot on the new iPhone 6s Plus in 4K Ultra HD resolution. “The Painter of Jalouzi,” the short film that was posted on YouTube, is about a man in one of the largest slums in Haiti who rallies his neighbors to paint bright colors all over town in an effort to lift the community’s spirits.