Discovery believed virtual reality would fundamentally change the way viewers connected with content. So last August, they evolved their digital brand and identity by launching a VR-dedicated site with nine original short-form experiences.

In eight months, they’ve already produced over 70 short-form videos and dedicated resources to shoot a slew of more shows in the immersive format. Their video strategy complements Seeker, a millennial-centric web-native network with over 250 socially driven videos premiering every month. Programs like Edge of the Earth 360, which takes you to a VR trip through a weather balloon 100,000 feet in the air, will be debuting in May.

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The business model is shaping up quite nicely, too. The company has already indicated it will accommodate Madison Avenue, and Discovery’s 3 billion cumulative subscribers in more than 220 countries, by selling ads for VR in time for upfront marketplace.

Suzanne Kolb, Discovery Digital Networks’ executive vice president and general manager, oversees the company’s portfolio of web-native brands and series, original digital development, Discovery VR, and social partnerships.

Kolb, who previously was the president at E! Entertainment, joined [a]listdaily to discuss how they plan on building culturally relevant content.

How will Discovery continue to use VR to take the brand places it’s never gone before?

Immersive storytelling has always been a part of our DNA. As a leader in digital experiences, we saw firsthand how completely enthralling VR was; bringing this experience to our viewers and launching Discovery VR became a no-brainer. Whereas advancements in digital technologies (e.g. HD, 3D, etc.) have historically improved an existing viewing medium, VR is unique because it’s an entirely new way to consume content. With this, we’re continually exploring ways to further engage our fans and place them in situations they may otherwise not be able to experience.

How is Discovery leveraging relationships with brands like Gillette and Toyota to create VR content?

We love working with partners like Toyota and Gillette who want to do something different—in this case working with us to leverage the power of VR to bring dynamic, immersive stories and experiences to a wider audience shared by both brands. Building native content through strategic ad deals also allows us to add even more fresh content to our steady publishing stream and provides us with some unique distribution opportunities.

What is currently the biggest challenge for marketing VR?


The biggest challenge, like all programming, is to tell the best stories and create exceptional experiences. In this case, you want to make sure the technology is genuinely amplifying that story and experience. The next challenge is getting the word out. The technology’s rapid rise in popularity is a direct result of its broad appeal. That being said, it’s still a new technology, so simply educating consumers about what it is and how to use it is a challenge all content creators have to address. We believe the only real way to convert the consumer is through exceptional content that clearly benefits from being told in a VR form. The next step is having a volume of that content so you become reliable to your audience. With over 70 short-form videos on Discovery VR to date, we’re definitely getting there.

Is Discovery testing out VR capabilities for television in any way?

Since Discovery VR’s launch, we’ve created complementary VR experiences for many of our linear franchises including (but not limited to) Discovery’s Gold Rush and MythBusters, Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl XII, Science Channel’s Secret Space Escapes and Survivorman and—most recently—Destination America’s Ghost Asylum. The dynamic experiences transform fans into characters, bringing them one step closer to their favorite programs. With such a diverse portfolio of linear and web-native networks here at Discovery Communications, there are so many opportunities to create even more of these thrilling experiences—and we’re excited for what’s to come.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan.