It’s been 33 years since World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) brought a million viewers ringside with its inaugural pay-per-view event, Wrestlemania.
Today, the entertainment company is bringing you inside the ring through a virtual reality partnership with NextVR, a VR company that broadcasts live events, such as NBA and NFL games, and concerts. Put on a headset and you too can be on the receiving end of a suplex.
In November, it was reported that the WWE was experimenting with VR. It seems like they’ve hit on a use case.
According to Danny Keens, vp of content at NextVR, “WWE is ideally suited for VR because of the event, the size of the ring and the intimacy we can get to the fans. We put you in the ring and bring you an experience like it’s actually meant to be.”
WWE executives were not available for comment. A spokesperson pointed to a statement from a press release.
NextVR will have 10 to 12 cameras wrapped around the arena, including cameras on top of each turnbuckle and will create 10-minute highlight packages from select 2018 WWE special events. As part of the partnership, the WWE gets its own VR channel on NextVR’s platform, which also airs VR content from the NFL, the NBA, NBC and Fox Sports, among others.
VR is at an inflection point, trying to figure out how to crack the mass adoption nut. WWE’s rabid fan base—3 million strong tune in each Monday for the company’s Monday Night RAW event—could be an entry point for a new type of VR consumer. And as the price of headsets drops and using them no longer requires bulky computers or wires, Keens sees opportunity.
“With new chip sets, new phones, we’re seeing huge growth on our platform,” he said. “And as we are added to more gaming platforms, we’re seeing a hockey stick curve on usage. As a company, we’re maximizing our advantage on sports and events and will continue to do these partnerships because we see people using headsets. Once upon a time, it was harder; now it’s becoming more mainstream.”
The trick—or at least one of them—will be to figure out revenue. According to NextVR’s vp of revenue, Marie Sornin, “We’re creating new ways for brands to engage with WWE in a unique way; working with sponsorship formats and opportunities.”
Translation: no revenue just yet.
But that’s expected in a new medium like this. There will be trial and error, of course, but it will be up to media companies and their partners to understand that new technology and new ways of experiencing content means not repeating the mistakes of the past. Banner ads won’t fly in a VR world.
“We’re not talking about incremental change to how content is watched,” Keens said. “It’s transformational. For the first time ever, people will step into the screen to see the content. As much as I talk about adoption and growth and how compelling the content is, this is the very beginning of what will be a game-changing medium. This is not something that’s gonna be a two- or three-year road map. It’s going to be a 50-year road map, just like TV and film. The beginning of a new way of storytelling is unfolding.”