TheGrill 2016: Virtual Reality Execs Explain How the Technology Makes Money (Video)

“$5 billion has been invested in VR since 2011 … Where’s the ROI on that?” Vertebrae founder says

Virtual reality has been a promising new technology for the media and entertainment industry, and Vertebrae CEO Vince Cacace and LiveLike’s Saswat Panda are showing how the medium can be monetized.

Both executives presented their products at TheGrill, TheWrap’s annual media, entertainment and technology conference at the Montage Beverly Hills on Monday.

“$5 billion has been invested in VR since 2011. And I think a lot of us have been wondering, ‘Where’s the ROI on that?'” said Cacace, whose company Vertebrae focuses on connecting virtual reality audiences with brands and advertisers through its VR advertising platform.

Last week, the company debuted a partnership with Lionsgate for a 90-second mobile “experience” that served as an ad for the studio’s “Blair Witch” sequel.

“They’re expensive to produce,” Cacace said on stage. “VR is a transformative medium … but it’s not a sustainable one.”

“We started Vertebrae to enable creators to make more content,” he continued. “Because in VR, the advertising can and must be as compelling as the content.

Saswat Panda, the co-founder and chief technology officer of LiveLike, demonstrated how his virtual reality platform, which delivers live sports viewing experiences, presents unique advertising opportunities.

“Our virtual suite, and the 3D environment we’ve built opens itself up to attractive monetization opportunities,” Panda explained. “Product placement, interactive bar ads, augmented reality ads that play the video itself … monetizations in the form of micro-transactions and in-app transactions.”

LiveLike recently teamed up with Fox Sports on the Fox Sports VR app, which allows sports fans to view games using an iOS or Android app. The first virtual reality broadcast was Saturday’s Ohio State-Oklahoma game, which Panda said pulled in around 37,000 viewers.

“We’re leveraging the power of VR to bring immersive experiences to sports fans everywhere,” Panda said, adding a small caveat: “We still haven’t reached mass adoption just yet.”

TheGrill 2016 features a stunning lineup of thought leaders and disrupters, including famed music manager and Azoff MSG Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff, Showtime CEO David Nevins, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, and FX Networks CEO John Landgraf.

The conference opened with a conversation between TheWrap Editor in Chief Sharon Waxman and Jason Hirschhorn, CEO of REDEF, two leading journalistic voices in media and entertainment.