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Hulu Exec: ‘We Are Spending A Lot of Time on Virtual Reality’

Hulu is getting ready to unveil its first virtual reality (VR) efforts this spring, which will include apps for VR headsets as well as VR content. The goal is to experiment with the new medium, and eventually find the right mix to keep viewers hooked for hours, said Hulu’s head of experience Ben Smith at the Variety Entertainment Summit at CES in Las Vegas last week.

“We are spending a lot of time on virtual reality,” Smith said, adding: “We are spending a lot of time in incubation. Trying things, seeing what works, what doesn’t work.”

Smith explained that Hulu’s efforts are less focused on what he called “the Pepsi challenge,” and more on finding a long-lasting experience. “Really spending attention to the dividing line between an experience that feels good for the first five minutes, and what you are actually going to do habitually. Day after day, or what you are going to do for two or three hours,” Smith said.

Hulu first announced its VR efforts last fall, at the time revealing that it had commissioned a short film dubbed “The Big One” from Freddie Wong’s Rocketjump and Lionsgate, with WEVR being in charge of the VR production.

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Smith said that Hulu plans to release additional VR content in conjunction with some of its originals. Hulu’s approach was to shoot a little bit of VR content as part of those original productions, and then use it as it sees fit, he said. “Maybe we don’t release it right away, maybe we archive it. But you are gonna start seeing some stuff from us this spring on VR, on the core experience of VR for video and also some content as well.”

The goal of these first efforts was to experiment, said Smith: “We are setting our expectations appropriately. This is about early adopters. This is going to be about a lot of advanced technology, a lot of people who come from gaming. It’s not for Mom and Pop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa yet. But it will get there. So we just want to learn now.”

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