WWE is launching a new virtual-reality initiative in partnership with NextVR — promising to bring fans literally inside the ring with up-close-and-raw VR highlight recaps of select 2018 WWE events.
The companies expect to produce six VR experiences this year, each slated to run about 10 minutes in length. They’ll be available to watch for free on a new WWE channel in the NextVR app following each event.
WWE took its first crack at VR more than two years ago in a pact with Samsung. Since then, the virtual-reality space has evolved and VR now has the potential to not only super-serve WWE fans with unique content but become a real revenue stream, said Michelle Wilson, WWE’s chief revenue and marketing officer.
“It’s an incredible fan-engagement opportunity,” Wilson said. “We’re going to provide these amazing, oh-my-god moments in VR.”
The WWE event highlights will be free on the NextVR platform, and WWE is currently in talks with potential sponsors for the virtual-reality programming. At some point in the future, the entertainment company may make VR content part of the WWE Network internet-subscription service, Wilson added. “If our fans want a VR or [augmented reality] experience, we will be there,” she said.
For each production, NextVR will work alongside WWE’s TV production teams, positioning 10-12 custom virtual-reality camera rigs at each event. That will include cameras mounted right next to the turnbuckles in the ring, providing an unprecedented look at the WWE action, said Danny Keens, NextVR’s VP of content.
“It’s something you can’t see or experience on television,” he said. “WWE and VR is a match made in heaven.”
NextVR was drawn to WWE because it knew that boxing has worked really well in VR, Keens said. The test footage NextVR has shot with WWE, he added, is “by far the most compelling VR content I’ve seen… You feel like you can reach out and touch the WWE superstars.”
Keens acknowledged that in terms of making money on VR, the industry is still in build-it-and-they-will-come mode. “We strongly believe as a company that with awesome content will come audience — and monetization opportunities will appear,” he said.
The WWE virtual-reality content will be available on the NextVR app worldwide, with the exception of China (where NextVR currently doesn’t have a distribution partnership), with a production turnaround of less than week following each event. The first WWE event NextVR will produce in VR will be in first quarter of 2018, but the companies have not revealed specifics at this point.
NextVR’s app is available on Samsung Gear VR headsets and Google Daydream View along with a compatible smartphone, as well as Sony’s PlayStation VR and Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality platform.
The company’s content partners include the NBA, NFL, Fox Sports, HBO, Live Nation, and the International Champions Cup. Founded in 2009, the company’s investors include Time Warner Investments, Comcast Ventures, Stephen Ross’s RSE Ventures, Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber, the Madison Square Garden Co. and Dick Clark Prods.
Pictured above: Brock Lesnar raises the WWE Universal Championship title belt after defeating Goldberg during WrestleMania 33 in April 2017