CNN made a big push into virtual reality and immersive journalism Tuesday by adding 360 videos to its Android and iOS apps as well as its website. The news network also officially announced its CNNVR unit, which has correspondents in 12 cities around the world.
The team is being led by CNN VP Jason Farkas, who told Variety that he sees this as the next big content push after TV and digital. “We are adding a third layer, which is VR,” he said.
CNN has been quietly experimenting with 360 video over the past couple of months, primarily publishing clips on Facebook 360. One of these reports, which took viewers into the Syrian city of Aleppo, generated more than five million views. On average, CNN’s 360 videos have clocked more than one million views, according to Farkas.
The network has been training correspondents in cities like New York, London, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Dubai, Johannesburg, Tokyo, and Beijing to produce these reports. Farkas said that 360 video has worked out great for stories that can benefit from presence. “Some of these stories, you gotta be there.”
He also argued that the medium allows for more empathy than traditional video. “That’s what all journalists want to do — to leave a lasting impact,” Farkas said.
On Tuesday, CNN published a new 360 video story about the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. In the coming days, the news network is going to use the medium to take viewers into an operating room to visit the separation of conjoined twins, as well as onto a glacier. “We are trying to give you access to places that are incredibly rare,” Farkas said.
CNN also recently launched a VR app on Google’s Daydream headset, and Farkas said that the network is looking to launch similar apps on other headsets as well. The CNNVR unit also has plans to experiment with augmented reality, and CNN plans to increasingly stream events live in 360.
Said Farkas: “If you pick the right event, live 360 has a really bright future.”