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Vimeo launches 360-degree video, giving VR ways to make money

Vimeo trails bigger rival YouTube in supporting the 360-degree uploads watchable on virtual-reality headsets, but it is offering other perks to creators.

Josh Miller/CNET

Vimeo on Wednesday added the ability to upload and watch 360-degree videos, widening the places to watch VR experiences and offering options to sell or rent experiences directly to viewers like you.

Vimeo trails bigger rival YouTube and Facebook, the world's biggest social network by users, in providing the ability to upload and share 360-degree videos, which are the basis for video in virtual reality. But its pedigree as a hub for independent filmmakers and its track record of giving creators tools to polish their content and make money off it sets Vimeo apart from those more populist rivals.

Vimeo will give creators of 360-degree video options for selling or renting their experiences.

Vimeo

In other words, Facebook and YouTube want to put 360 and VR in everyone's hands. Vimeo wants to make it something dedicated filmmakers can run with.

"Right now, it is expensive and time-consuming to make 360 video. Most [people] can only do it when they're working with big brands," said Anjali Sud, senior vice president and general manager of Vimeo's Creator Platform. "Content is the missing piece that would take immersive stories from nascent to mainstream."

Virtual reality is an entertainment format that uses headsets to create the illusion of transporting you to a different place. Big investments in VR hardware by tech giants like Facebook and Samsung have spurred hype around virtual reality, but the new format still lacks standard practices about how to pay for the stuff you watch in VR, especially outside the realm of games.

Right now, most VR content is either free -- often supported by a brand or corporate sponsor -- or pay-to-play. Almost all paid experiences are games. Some entertainment VR companies are experimenting with other models: Last year, movie studio 20th Century Fox released its "The Martian VR Experience" for $20, and VR startup Wevr has introduced an annual membership model for $8 and $20 a year.

Vimeo's move makes it one of the first worldwide marketplaces for creators to sell 360-degree videos directly to viewers. Vimeo Pro and Business members, who pay a fee for those membership levels, can choose options for renting, buying or subscribing through the company's Vimeo on Demand service. Creators get 90 percent of the revenue after transaction costs.

At launch viewers can watch 360 video in Vimeo mobile apps, including Android-powered and Apple devices, that can be used with compatible headsets, like the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream. The company says support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive is coming soon.

For creators, Vimeo also will allow uploads of 360 videos in up to 8K resolution and playback at various quality levels, including high-definition offline viewing in its mobile apps. It provides a range of customization settings, like embedding options. The company is launching resources such as tutorials on the basics of 360.

Correction at 5:25 a.m. PT: A quote about the expense of 360-degree video was originally attributed to the incorrect Vimeo executive. The speaker was Anjali Sud, Vimeo's director of video product.

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