Sky looks to the next generation of TV, backs Oculus Rift startup

A major British broadcaster has invested in a Silicon Valley virtual reality startup developing the next generation of entertainment.

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The Norwegian army is just one of the outifts looking at the possibilities of virtual reality headset Oculus Rift. Tu

Sky is backing Jaunt, a US company building virtual reality viewing on Oculus Rift technology. The UK broadcaster is putting its money where its mouth is as it explores the future of entertainment.

After first investing $350,000 in Jaunt in December, Sky has told investors it has chucked in a further $400,000 to the one-year-old company. There's no finished product in sight, but by experimenting with Oculus Rift, Sky has an eye on the next generation of content creation and viewing.

Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that lets the wearer see a game, video or simulation in 360 degrees. It's not available as a product to the public yet, but is in the hands of developers and virtual-reality firms like Jaunt to build new types of content.

British broadcaster BSkyB was formed by the 1990 merger of rivals British Satellite Broadcasting and Rupert Murdoch's Sky. The Sky service is one of the UK's biggest paid-for broadcasters, with subscriptions and a satellite dish required to view its programming. Murdoch's money has helped Sky establish a tight grip on newly released movies, big-name US TV shows and major sporting events like the English Premier League.

But in the past few years, Sky has invested in expanding possibilities outside of nailing a dish to your house. Sky subscribers can watch movies, sports and TV shows on their phone and tablet on the go with the Sky Go catch-up and on demand apps. Sky channels are available on other platforms such as Freeview and YouView. And the Now TV online service opens Sky sports, films and programmes to people who don't have a dish, for a smaller monthly fee.

Sky invested in media-streaming company Roku to produce the Now TV Box, a £10 set-top box that lets you stream Sky content to your telly without a dish. It's also backed Zeebox, the second-screen app for telly addicts recently rebranded as Beamly; and 1Mainstream, a Silicon Valley company that brings HD content to new platforms and apps.

Sky's investment in Jaunt is just another round of putting out feelers to consider new platforms and new technology. In return, Jaunt gets to benefit from Sky's knowledge of what viewers and consumers want and need.

Sky isn't the only tech giant backing small firms to see if anything interesting comes from them: Oculus, the company that makes the Rift headset, has been bought by Facebook. Apple has acquired around 30 companies over the past 18 months or so, including a $3 billion deal for Beats.

Meanwhile Google has its own investment arm, Google Ventures. Having operated in the US backing such companies as Nest -- which Google went on to buy -- the Big G is establishing a venture capital outpost in London with $100 million burning a hole in its pocket.

As well as expanding onto new platforms, Sky is considering expanding its borders. With the broadcaster last week announcing the absorption of its sister companies in Italy and Germany, it seems an international Sky is on the cards.

 

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