×

Hulu Releases Virtual Reality App for Samsung Gear VR (Exclusive)

Hulu just took its first step into virtual worlds: The streaming service released an app for Samsung’s Gear VR headset Thursday that allows consumers to watch close to 30 360-degree videos. The app, which is available on the Gear VR Oculus Store, also offers access to Hulu’s entire catalog of TV shows and movies via a virtual living room.

Hulu had first announced its foray into VR back in September of 2015, but the company’s head of experience Ben Smith told Variety this week that his team decided to delay the release to get things right. “We really wanted to build an experience that we believe in,” he said.

Part of that was getting the app itself to work well, and find the best way for consumers to navigate through menus, as well as switch between immersive VR videos and Hulu’s traditional library content. But Hulu also wanted to be able to launch with enough immersive content to keep people interested beyond the first viewing session. Said Smith: “Novelty is not going to be a pleasing experience over time.”

Hulu isn’t the only video service eyeing VR. Netflix launched an app on the Gear VR last fall, but is currently giving its users access only to its regular catalog on the VR headset. Amazon recently indicated with a job posting that it is also interested in distributing VR content, but hasn’t officially announced its plans yet.

SEE MORE: Hardware Giants Bet Big on Virtual Reality and a Market That Doesn’t Yet Exist

At launch, Hulu’s VR app includes close to 30 360-degree videos from Discovery Communications, Baobab Studios, the National Geographic Channel, RYOT, Showtime Networks, Viacom and others. And while many of those clips may be available else where as well, there are also some exclusives.

Hulu tapped into its existing relationship with RocketJump and longtime YouTube creator Freddie Wong for an exclusive VR short dubbed “The Big One” that was produced in cooperation with Lionsgate, Legend and WEVR. The film lets users be present as a meteor shower descends onto Earth, quickly turning from a visual spectacle into an imminent threat to mankind’s survival.

In addition, the app will also feature some exclusive National Geographic content, and premiere videos from SilVR Thread and Studio Transcendent.

At launch, all of this content will be free to view for users with or without a Hulu Plus subscription. Smith said that the company is still exploring different monetization models. “We are definitely excited about the advertising opportunity,” he said. But with with consumers just starting to buy headsets, it would be early to really think about this as a revenue generator, he argued.

Still, Hulu doesn’t view this as an experiment, said Smith. “It’s something that we believe in.” As such, the company is in the process of building out a VR content roadmap for the rest of the year, and also has plans to bring the app to additional headsets in the future. “We believe in this as a long-term investment,” he said.

More Digital

  • Colin Kroll Dead Vine Obit

    HQ Trivia and Vine Co-Founder Colin Kroll Dies at 35

    Colin Kroll, co-founder of the Vine video app and the HQ Trivia game, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment early Sunday of an apparent drug overdose, Variety has confirmed. He was 35. New York Police Department officers responded at 12:18 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, to a call by Kroll’s girlfriend, who was concerned about [...]

  • Nick Eh 30, StoneMountain64

    CAA Signs Gaming Influencers Nick Eh 30, StoneMountain64

    CAA has signed two popular live-streaming battle royale gamers — Nicholas Amyoony, better known as Nick Eh 30, and David Steinberg, aka StoneMountain64 — for representation. CAA said it will work to create opportunities for Nick Eh 30 (above left) and StoneMountain64 (above right) in all areas, including TV, motion pictures, touring, digital distribution and [...]

  • Amazon Adds NBA League Pass to

    Amazon Adds NBA League Pass Live-Streaming Games to Prime Video Channels

    Amazon is bringing pro hoops action to Prime Video Channels: The ecommerce giant now offers NBA League Pass as part of its lineup of 150-plus subscription options for Prime members in the U.S. It’s the first U.S. live-sports subscription service on Prime Video Channels. Prime members can subscribe to NBA League Pass via Prime Video [...]

  • Fifty Shades of Grey

    International Piracy Ring Stole Over 25,000 Movie and TV Digital Files, U.S. Feds Say

    A five-member international hacking crime ring stole more than 25,000 files for Hollywood movies and TV shows and illegally offered hundreds of them for sale online, according to U.S. law enforcement officials. A federal grand jury in L.A. on Wednesday (Dec. 12) indicted five men, identified as residing in the U.K., India, Dubai and Malaysia, [...]

  • Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president

    Apple to Update iPhones in China to Avoid Sales Ban

    Apple is pushing out a software update to iPhones in China to address a recent court order obtained by Qualcomm that banned the sale of certain iPhone models in the country. The update will allow the company to continue selling its phones in China, company representatives told Reuters Friday morning. The Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court [...]

  • Kevin Reilly Variety Cover

    Kevin Reilly Named Content Chief for WarnerMedia Streaming Service

    Kevin Reilly — a veteran television exec who has led programming at NBC, FX, Fox, and most recently Turner Broadcasting — has been tapped to head content strategy for the still-nascent streaming service that WarnerMedia plans to launch next year. Reilly, who has led programming at Turner brands TNT and TBS since 2015, will serve [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content