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Sky to release VR content on Facebook

Sky has started producing 360-degree videos and will use Facebook as a distribution platform for this content, according to Sky’s MD of content, Gary Davey.

Gary DaveySpeaking at a Royal Television Society event in London last night, Davey said that Sky has started producing some “really interesting” virtual reality content and filmed something “just the other day” in a refugee camp in Lebanon. This follows its investment last year in VR firm Jaunt.

He said this immersive content will be available first on Facebook, which started to roll out 360-degree videos in the service’s newsfeed in September, and that in time Sky 360-degree content will also be available on VR headsets.

Davey also revealed that Sky News would go through major changes this year, with the closure of its current newsroom and a move to a new facility.

“Sky News will move into a purpose-built, state-of-art, digital newsroom. We’ve got a completely new design, completely new workflows, an opportunity to rethink the whole idea – how should news function in the modern world with mobile phones. It’s a really interesting time,” said Davey.virtual-reality_7802

In a wide-ranging interview and question-and-answer session, Davey confirmed Sky’s plans to launch an Ultra High Definition service, which will be supported by its new, advanced Sky Q offering.

He said this UHD offering will include a “wide range of content including high-end documentary material, live sports, premier movies” though would not say when this would launch.

He also dismissed the idea that Sky was cutting programming budgets due to the costs incurred in renewing its Premier League Football rights. “This year we’ll spend about £5 billion [US$7.2 billion] on content – which clearly includes sports and entertainment,” said Davey.

“Our entertainment budgets are growing at a faster rate than they ever have in the history of the business,” he added.

In terms of content consumption, Davey said that Sky now thinks in terms of brands, not channels, having embraced a range of distribution models – including its stand-alone over-the-top service, Now TV.

“We don’t care when, where or on what device the customer consumes the content. We just want the customer engaged in the content,” said Davey, revealing that just 16% of the total consumption of its recently-launched original drama, The Last Panthers, was through live liner.

He also dismissed competition from new rivals like Amazon and Netflix, claiming that Sky “kicked this journey off” way before either company became an issue.

“The truth is that Netflix has been very successful in the UK at a time when we’re growing as fast as we’ve ever grown and our churn rate is at the lowest level it’s been in ten years, so the existence of Netflix doesn’t seem to have damaged our customer base at all. It’s a supplementary service to people,” said Davey.

Sky upped in investment in cinematic VR firm Jaunt in September, as part of a US$65 million funding round that was led by Disney and also had contribution from ProSiebenSat.1.

A month later Sky News launched its first virtual reality news report on the migrant crisis in Europe, filmed on “the front line of Europe’s migration crisis in Greece”. The report was filmed with the Jaunt ONE VR camera.

Tags: Gary Davey, Sky, Sky Q