Rethinking Home Entertainment27 Jan, 2017 By: Stephanie Prange
Home entertainment has for the most part been a format to revisit what viewers have had access to in previous forms and times. Theatrical hits found new life (and revenue) in the home entertainment market on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc and digital, as did classics that graced theaters long before the prospect of viewing content on-demand in the home existed.
The home entertainment experience evolved from merely watching the same content available in the theater to viewing extra content — filmmaker commentary, making-of documentaries, Easter eggs, etc. — that the theatrical audience could not access. Also, the video game business evolved into yet another way to experience home entertainment similar to movies, with storylines and realistic graphics. Many saw the game and movie businesses converging.
At CES, other types of home entertainment came to the stage: virtual reality and augmented reality, which offer new ways to connect with franchises that often originate in the theater. There were numerous devices and services that promised to make virtual and other realities a new form of home entertainment, a new way to experience a story. The devices and content delivery systems differ wildly. From the Gear VR, which attaches to the cell phone and accesses whatever viewers can stream online, to the “tethered” experiences that take advantage of the greater power of game systems such as the PlayStation 4. Some experiences require cameras or other devices in the home to orient the player in a space, allowing the viewer to move around. As one VR proponent put it, there are low-end to mid-range to high-end experiences, each offering a different version of a story or franchise. The space has become so active that it spawned its own industry consortium announced at CES, the Virtual Reality Industry Forum, comprised of a few dozen companies joining forces “to further the widespread availability of high-quality audiovisual VR experiences, for the benefit of consumers.”
This kaleidoscope of entertainment can either be viewed as a cacophony or as an opportunity. In the year ahead, “we will see more VR, AR, AI and mixed reality,” said industry veteran Mike Dunn, president of product strategy and consumer business development at 20th Century Fox. “As we continue to evolve the ways we create and distribute content, we must make it easy for the consumer to remain connected to the stories and experiences they love, and we must help them understand the formats available, including defining clear benefits of how and why to purchase.” And that may in the future encompass purchases of VR experiences. Indeed, the Fox Innovation Lab in November released its first commercial virtual reality endeavor, The Martian VR Experience, at $19.99.
We’ve long been rethinking the way we deliver home entertainment — different formats, different delivery services — but in the future we may have to rethink the type of home entertainment the industry delivers.