Comcast, Time Warner Inc. venture arms invest in virtual reality start-up NextVR

The venture capital arms of cable companies Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Time Warner Inc. are participating in a $30.5 million funding round for NextVR, a Laguna Beach, Calif., startup that broadcasts events in virtual reality.

Comcast and Time Warner joined live-events producers Dick Clark Productions, the New York Knicks owner Madison Square Garden Company, Miami Dolphins owner RSE Ventures and Golden State Warriors owner Peter Guber in backing the company's $30.5 million Series A funding round. NextVR has recently offered VR broadcasts of a Democratic presidential debate and an NBA opening-season game.

Michael Yang, managing director of Comcast Ventures, told the Wall Street Journal that virtual reality "is one of these emerging technologies that could evolve into the next great platform."

Comcast had already joined a $10 million funding round earlier this year for AltspaceVR, a social media platform focused on virtual reality.

Meanwhile, Scott Levine, managing director of Time Warner Investments, also told the WSJ that Time Warner is interested in possibly integrating NextVR's technology into debate coverage on CNN and pro basketball broadcasts through Turner Sports.

Interest in virtual reality is set to spike in 2016, with the anticipated debut of headsets from Sony, HTC, and Facebook-owned Oculus. And Comcast isn't the only pay-TV provider looking to stay competitive in video through cutting-edge technologies like VR.

Last month, DirecTV (NYSE: T) took what it described as its "first jab" into virtual reality, launching a smartphone app that lets customers see highlights from the June 27 BKB fight event at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

DirecTV sells TV coverage of BKB (Bareknuckle Boxing) events as pay-per-view products. The new BKB VR app is designed to work with Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition and Cardboard virtual reality headsets for both Android and iOS mobile devices.

The app, which DirecTV says gives viewers a "360-degree ringside experience," is available for download from both Google Play and Apple's App Store, as well as the Oculus Store. DirecTV is producing the BKB events with a five-camera system designed it said to give the viewer the perspective of actually being in the live audience.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal story
- see this release

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