Google teams with NBC to build VR content for its TV shows

Virtual reality has yet to hit the big time with the vast majority of consumers — headset sales are still in the single-digit millions — but today Google and NBC announced a deal to make programming that could help the medium pick up some more mainstream appeal. The two said that they will be working together to produce at least 10 multi-episode VR productions that will run as extra content alongside core programming on NBC itself and its network of other channels.

Users can watch in VR on Google Cardboard or Daydream View, and it will also be hosted on YouTube for those not immersively inclined. Google said that it will also down the line make some of the content available on the VR180 format for 4K, three-dimensional video.

Initial programs that will get the VR treatment include NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” (which has already produced a selection of VR productions here, here, and here); reality show “Vanderpump Rules” from Bravo; and content from SYFY WIRE, the website for the Syfy TV channel.

With VR still a relatively young industry, and Google is continuing to develop its own internal capabilities, there are a number of routes that can be taken to capture the experience. In this case, it looks like Google will be using the deal with NBC to promote and use Jump, its own platform for VR video capture that it first launched back in 2015.

We’ve asked Google if it can give more details regarding the business relationship with NBC, and we will update this post as we learn more. For now, it’s another opportunity for Google to develop more premium content — creating a new set of videos against which to sell advertising — and working alongside NBC Universal to help it also update its content for new and different audiences.

This is not the first time that NBC Universal has tried out content on VR: as one example it also worked with Intel and Oculus to bring Olympic content to headsets.

It’s also become a very standard part of TV programming to develop additional content that can be watched by fans alongside the core TV show, to help extend touch-points with an audience who may otherwise only be seen for 22 minutes each week, at best. VR presents another opportunity for that, too.

“We are constantly looking for opportunities to bring consumers new ways to experience content from across the NBCUniversal portfolio,” said Ron Lamprecht, Executive Vice President, NBCUniversal Digital Enterprises, in a statement. “This partnership combines the creative expertise of NBCUniversal with Google’s VR capabilities to create these engaging experiences. We look forward to working with Google and YouTube on more collaborations like this in the future.”

Google has also been looking for more ways to cosy up to premium content companies to develop content for its platforms, partly to secure those relationships for a future where it might find itself competing for a content-hungry VR audience, and partly to help try to create that audience today. Other partnerships have included deals with HBO and Netflix, as well as NFL, NBA, Discovery, Vogue and Nat Geo.

“NBCUniversal’s networks and shows have a proven track record of high-quality storytelling that audiences can’t get enough of. Bringing them to VR lets fans connect with that content in a whole new way,” said Amit Singh, VP of business and operations for VR and AR at Google, in a statement. “NBCU’s teams were able to easily capture engaging VR content using the latest VR Jump cameras. And with YouTube, audiences can experience it on any device, bringing them closer to their favorite series.”