Viacom Shuts Down Viacom Next VR Studio

Viacom has closed down Viacom Next, its emerging entertainment technology group that was best known for producing virtual reality (VR) experiences like Tyler Hurd’s interactive music video “Chocolate.” The closure comes as Viacom laid off close to 100 employees across multiple divisions as part of a cost-cutting move.

Some Viacom Next staffers will lose their job as part of the closure while others may get a chance to work within other parts of the company, according to a spokesperson, who sent Variety the following statement:

“We remain deeply committed to developing immersive experiences for consumers through groundbreaking augmented and virtual reality. As part of our efforts to coordinate Viacom’s approach to next-generation platforms and solutions across our brands, we are absorbing Viacom NEXT into our Global Emerging Opportunities Group.  A number of Viacom NEXT’s creators and engineers will join this group, however a small number of employee positions have been affected. We appreciate these colleagues’ contributions and are making every effort to assist them through benefits and support, including severance and outplacement assistance.”

Viacom Next’s closure was first announced by the group’s creative director David Liu on Twitter Wednesday.

Viacom Next launched in 2016 as a way to explore new technologies within Viacom. The group, which is thought to have employed 15 people at its peak, initially didn’t rely on Viacom’s IP at all. Instead, it struck partnerships with musicians and other creatives to produce original VR music videos, VR games and augmented reality (AR) experiences.

In mid-2017, Viacom Next started a fellowship in cooperation with the NYC Media Lab to explore the intersection of VR and music. Late last year, Viacom next also released a first title more closely connected to Viacom’s core properties: “Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard” made us of Apple’s ARKit software to let a Transformer go wild in people’s living rooms.

Viacom is set to report earnings Thursday.

Update: 10:20am: This post was updated with a statement from Viacom.

 

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