Why Live VR will save Live Entertainment

Monday, July 3, 2017

Live entertainment today is mainly consumed in one of two formats: In person or on-screen. Either one of them depicts a trade-off between a highly emotional experience and a rich media experience. Live VR can put an end to this and thereby significantly increase the value of live experiences. Here’s why:

Fan consuming sports in Live VR

Live Entertainment is broken as a format

Many people decide to attend live performances in person. Especially sports and music fans are willing to travel far and often plan months in advance to attend a concert of their favourite band or cheer for their team in the stadium. Without any doubt, such experiences are unique from an emotional and social standpoint.

However, they can be extremely frustrating on other levels: the average cost of a ticket for a U2 concert at Santa Clara Levi’s Stadium, for instance, is about $200. At that price, fans get to see the band from a very far distance. Often, they end up virtually watching the concert on giant low-resolution screens to see what’s actually happening. The experience is identical for major sports events taking place in large venues. In a nutshell, attending a live event in person promises high emotions at a high price, combined with a low-quality media experience.

Live concert in a big stadium with a small stage

Besides the on-site experience, millions of people decide to watch sports and concerts live on a screen, i.e. on TV or through another video format. In fact, MLB just recently started to broadcast baseball games on a weekly basis on Facebook, for instance. And companies such as Yahoo! and Live Nation have been streaming concerts on a daily basis for quite some time.

For consumers, this format is extremely convenient. Most of the time, such experiences are inexpensive or even free. They can comfortably be consumed from home, are provided in high resolution and typically entail additional information such as comments and in-game analytics.

That’s the Live as we’ve known it for more than 60 years. It is comfortable, practical, functional. But with the screen acting as a clear separation between consumers and performers, this format lacks something critical: a real sense of presence. The result? Following an event live on a screen depicts a high-quality media experience for a low price, but also with low emotions. 

Table comparing the quality of consuming live entertainment in-person, on-screen or in VR

Live VR is the solution

Live VR is poised to become the solution reconciling the sensation of an in-person live experience and a high-quality media experience. When consumed through a VR headset, immersive content offers a real sense of presence and often triggers emotions just like in real life. On top of that, the broadcast itself can be enriched by additional metadata. Just like on a TV broadcast, producers may add comments, scores and other analytics. There may even be additional TV screens embedded in the VR video, showing the commentators or another video stream within the Live experience.

For a good example, check the video by the production agency Greenfish below. They used two different 360 cameras to live stream the 6A Boys Basketball Finals of the PIAA State Championships in VR, switching between different perspectives. Besides the actual 360 live stream, Greenfish enriched the experience with additional information, such as the current score and remaining time. They also inserted a TV screen to show another perspective of the game.

Live VR does more than just combine the advantages of an in-person and an on-screen live experience, though. In fact, it depicts the solution to one of the biggest challenges for the live entertainment industry: How to keep an event small enough to offer fans an intimate experience with their stars while making it big enough to make the economics work. VR solves this impossible equation by enabling event organizers to sell the same intimate experience to millions of people around the world without having to put all of them in the same room.

A hybrid approach – Live VR as on-site premium experience

Of course, in-person live experiences and Live VR experiences don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Live VR may also be offered as a premium experience to the audience attending an event. Imagine that while being physically present at an event, fans are provided with VR headsets to give them a unique perspective of the show, better than any first-row ticket could ever offer. They can freely choose between watching the event directly while enjoying the interactions with their friends, or diving deeper into the action and getting closer to their stars by putting on the VR headset. During the break, they could even watch replays to experience the best highlights again. Throughout the show, fans could alternate between the two experiences, thereby combining the best of the two formats.

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