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Longtime Hollywood Exec Peter Guber Says He's Betting 'Millions' on Virtual Reality

"You can only fill 18,000 seats, and there are seven billion people in the world."

Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber thinks virtual reality is “the secret sauce for live entertainment” — and to put his money where his mouth is, he’s investing in NextVR, one of the companies figuring out the ingredients of that sauce.

The exact dollar figure of Guber’s investment is not being disclosed, but a NextVR spokesperson said it’s “in the millions of dollars.” The former Columbia Pictures and Sony exec, who co-owns the Los Angeles Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, will also chair the startup’s new advisory board.

“The social element is critical, live in the arena,” he said of attending a live sports game. “But you can only fill 18,000 seats, and there are seven billion people in the world.”

NextVR films and broadcasts live events that, when viewed in VR, allow the user to look in any direction they like while also having a closer vantage point on the action than they might get on TV. As the company’s executive chairman Brad Allen described it at a sports VR event last week, “you actually feel like you’re there.”

Guber said he expects there will be similar potential for VR-broadcasted events like the awards shows produced by Dick Clark Production, which he currently chairs. He added that it’s technologically feasible to let viewers “move” around a stadium or theater to change their view, possibly through voice commands spoken to smartphones strapped to their heads.

“You don’t have a director telling you where to look,” he said. “Individual capture devices can be put in separate places, and you can move from courtside to the owner’s suite, looking down.”

The two big unanswered questions for live VR events, Guber said, are whether most people will find it comfortable to watch whole games in a headset, and what business model they’ll be willing to accept for the experience. The options include pay-per-view, a subscription or “short view” clips that augment a traditional broadcast.

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