NextVR today announced an $80 million funding round to help the Laguna Beach, Calif.-based company expand its virtual reality platform internationally.
A majority of the Series B round comes from a handful of firms in Asia like China-based CITIC Guoan Information Industry Co Ltd; NetEase; CMC Holdings; and Founder H Fund. Japan-based SoftBank also invested. All investors from the $30 million Series A round, like Time Warner Investments and Comcast Ventures, re-upped their investments as well.
The fresh cash will help NextVR stream live events — from sports games to concerts to other performances — and make a push into markets abroad. NextVR, founded in 2009 and recently valued at $800 million, lets fans experience games from totally new, immersive perspectives. Thanks to its 5-year deal with Fox Sports, it has broadcasted events like the U.S. Open and the Daytona 500 in virtual reality.
NextVR Chairman Brad Allen spoke at our recent GeekWire Sports Tech Summit and talked about the opportunity for his company in a country like China.
“We have a big strategy around China,” he said last month. “There are 300 million NBA fans in China. How many of those will ever get to sit courtside, or even go to a game, much less sit courtside? You think about the virtual ticket to a courtside seat in an NBA game — you can sell millions of the same seat to every game.”
Allen noted that NextVR’s technology won’t replace a full-on production of a live sports game. But he certainly feels like there’s a place for VR in sports.
“I have never seen anything in my business career that has so much interest at such a high level, not just here in U.S. or Silicon Valley, but globally,” he said at the Sports Tech Summit.
NextVR builds software for the Samsung Gear VR headset, but the company is looking to develop for other hardware platforms, The Wall Street Journal reported. There are a bevy of companies in China working on new head-mounted displayed that could stream content from NextVR.
“Having the support of Asia’s biggest players provides us with significant resources for creating and distributing both local and international content in China, Korea, and Japan,” Allen said in a statement today.
Derek Belch, CEO and co-founder of STRIVR Labs, a virtual reality sports training platform, spoke on stage with Allen at the Sports Tech Summit and noted that “as soon as China crosses the multi-million headset mark, [Brad Allen] is going to be pretty happy, based on what they are doing.”