Ryot Corp., the immersive media company behind a slate of virtual reality documentaries and news-focused stories, is now under the AOL ownership umbrella.
Reps for AOL confirmed the company has acquired the L.A.-based studio, though financial details of the deal have not been disclosed. Ryot will develop 360 and VR content for news and entertainment site The Huffington Post, and enhance the content capabilities of AOL’s branded-content studio, Partner Studio by AOL.
Ryot first launched onto the immersive media scene in 2013. Since then, VR itself has drawn a dramatic increase in interest (and investment) from media companies and advertisers, particularly over the past year as companies look to get an early lead in a market that is expected to be worth up to $100 billion by 2020.
Among those banking on VR’s growing popularity are Hulu, which recently launched a virtual reality app for the Samsung Gear VR system; European broadcaster Sky,which has opened an in-house VR unit that will look to release more than 20 films over the coming year; and Facebook, which previewed its third original VR film produced by the Oculus Story Studio at the recent Sundance festival.
In an email to StreamDaily, Ryot co-founder Bryn Mooser and COO Molly DeWolf Swenson said the sale of the company to AOL “is a mainstream moment for VR and an evolutionary shift for news media. We’re thrilled to have found such a strong partner to help us achieve impact at scale, and shift not only how news is consumed, but also how connected we feel to the world around us.”
Ryot originally launched as a news website with stories focused on humanitarian issues worldwide. More recently, the company has shifted to immersive technology, partnering with the likes of global news agency The Associated Press to lend its expertise in immersive storytelling to develop a series of stories in VR. The first story in that series, Seeking Home: Life Inside the Calais Migrant Camp, went live on YouTube in November.
Ryot earned a 2016 Oscar nomination for best documentary short for the film Body Team 12.
Following the deal with AOL, Ryot will no longer cover breaking news and will instead focus on a handful of tentpole stories each month designed to take viewers deeper inside a story via immersive technology. Previous Ryot news coverage can still be found on the company’s Facebook page, which recently hit one-million likes.
AOL is owned by Verizon.
To mark the acquisition, HuffPo issued a 360-enabled video outlining the new news format.