Why Virtual Reality Could Generate $150 Billion for Hollywood By 2020

Advisory firm Digi-Capital forecast a huge new market for the entertainment industry

At Facebook’s recent developers conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke enthusiastically about a virtual reality-filled future. Last year, the company paid $2 billion for VR pioneer Oculus. While photos are the most frequently shared content on Facebook, Zuckerberg sees Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality content taking the lead down the road.

“When you think about virtual reality, a lot of people first think about gaming. But I actually think video is going to be more engaging in a lot of ways,” Zuckerberg said during his keynote address.

Mike Vorhaus, president of consulting firm Magid Advisors agreed: “I have no doubt this is a killer market.  People who play games, watch sports and television in general are all excited about it.”

NBCUniversal’s Michael Scogin was in the audience during  Zuckerberg’s keynote. Scogin, VP of Late Night at NBC Entertainment Digital, has been helping to lead a VR charge at NBC. For the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live, SNL teamed up with filmmaker Chris Milk to capture the event, using custom built VR cameras.

Milk also recently teamed up with Megan Ellison‘s Annapurna Pictures to create a VR unit at the film production company.

“So many people watched that show on television,” Scogin said. “We wanted to capture that moment in history in a way that hasn’t been done before. I feel like this is a record of that night that fans of the show will have for years and years to come.”

NBC is not alone. Other content creators are busy experimenting with VR, as tech giants roll out all sorts of hardware offerings. Along with Facebook’s Oculus, companies like Sony, Samsung, Microsoft and Google are all angling for a piece of the nascent market.

On the gaming front, Facebook highlighted “EVE: Valkyrie” during its developers conference. The multiplayer shooter game is meant to make you feel like you’re piloting a spaceship and is being marketed as a featured game for both Facebook’s ‘Oculus Rift’ and Sony’s ‘Project Morpheus’ headset for its PS4 consoles.

How big will the overall market get? This week, advisory firm Digi-Capital forecast VR/AR market could generate a whopping $150 billion in revenue by the year 2020, with much of the VR-related revenue coming from gaming and 3D films.  Industry consultant Mike Vorhaus sees that estimate as being low.

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Ultimately, NBCUniversal’s Scogin thinks content will be the key driver of VR hardware sales.  How similar that content ends up being to what we currently see on television and in film is up for debate.

“Now is the time to experiment and figure out what works, what doesn’t, what’s the right format,” Scogin said.

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