Will Virtual Headsets Become The New Reality For Eurovision?

Despite a crisis which saw over 20 staff members quit a couple of months ago, Eurovision fans should breathe a sigh of relief: the show will go on. While die-hard fans will have spent a significant amount of money to travel to the Ukraine this year, most of Eurovision’s 180 million viewers will be tuning in to watch it in their own homes.

The rise of services from the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and broadcasters’ own catch-up streams has led to the stark rise in on-demand and even ‘binge’ watching. We can effectively consume ‘live’ events such as Eurovision; streaming, pausing and fast forwarding them on a number of devices. And if there is not necessarily a sense of urgency to a watch it live, we can get it on catch-up.

Virtual reality (VR) is fast becoming a serious consideration for broadcasters looking to capitalise on live events. While it has already been making waves in gaming, film and theme parks – from being used in the movie preview of Assassin’s Creed, by the Natural History Museum in London to showcase David Attenborough’s barrier reef exploration and the BBC to allow viewers to look down at the Earth from space – in the next 12-18 months, the technology will move beyond this.

This is because the medium has been shown to increase attention rates. In education, for example, university lecturers are starting to use it in seminars to engage students – and it is working. People retain 10% of the information they read, 20% of what they hear but 90% when they physically interact with the subject matter, meaning the possibility for engagement through VR cannot be ignored anymore.

Imagine donning a VR headset in your living room and being able to stand onstage with Eurovision artists or sit in the front row of the audience. Virtual reality can offer a 360-degree field of vision accompanied by sound and even touch. And it offers a way for broadcasters to create enthralling and captivating experiences, which can even include the ad breaks.

The opportunities do not stop with Eurovision though. BT Sport has just announced that it will be streaming the Champions League final in VR. And when you think about how many live events are broadcast or re-capped on television, there are a lot that could be taken to another level using VR – from Glastonbury and Proms in the Park, to sporting events such as the Olympics, the World Cup and Moto GP.

Broadcasters could charge a fee to watch live events in VR. They are already offering pay-per-view for 2D events – the Anthony Joshua versus. Wladimir Klitschko boxing fight cost £19.95 to stream in the UK. A move to a pay-by-view VR service could, therefore, be a way to optimise business models whilst embracing digital transformation opportunities.

The technology also makes it much easier to deliver advertising or branded content, which broadcasters could use to further draw in advertisers. Provided the content is good enough, viewers are less likely to take off the VR headset in the same way as they would switch channels during an ad break. This means broadcaster have a better measure of the audience which they can ‘sell’ to brands.

While there may be various possibilities for broadcasters when it comes to VR, this does not mean that they should flock to adopt it without undertaking due diligence. Broadcasters and media companies should be testing what can be enhanced with VR by starting small, failing fast and scaling quickly.

This could mean that a media company now should have different tiers of broadcasts – linear, over-the-top (OTT) and a separate VR stream. There is a lot of strategy work that comes with that (what commercial model should be used for each?), design work (what is the customer experience within the VR environment?) and technology (separate cameras, digital asset management and real-time streaming delivery technology).

For all of this to be pulled together into a coherent customer experience these organisations need to merge strategy, design and technology seamlessly and work with content experts and technology partners. Only then will broadcasters and media companies be able to deliver enthralling experiences for consumers and with longevity that goes beyond a gimmick. Who knows, very soon, Eurovision parties may be abandoned as viewers watch through VR and become truly immersed in the glitz, glamour and spectacle of the show.

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