The DTG session Taking TV to the Worlds of the Metaverse produced four highly informative assessments of what the Metaverse might offer content makers. George Jarrett reports.

Rhys Hancock is Co-Founder and MD of the ITV company Metavision, a studio and agency that operates in and around the Metaverse, aiming to win brands new opportunities.

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The Metaverse and the multiple defintions of what it might be

“We were asked to find what the future of entertainment is, and for us this was reaching younger audiences in a platform where they are, with relevant content. That means what we call the Metaverse, but it has lots of definitions,” he explained.

“A lot of people will see the Metaverse as ‘we are going to spend all our lives in this virtual world’. This is slightly overblown. Then, we have the augmented reality Metaverse; rather than taking the real into the virtual it is going to be taking the virtual and overlaying it into the real one,” he added.

Rhys Hancock

Rhys Hancock, Metavision

The Metaverse is a collective name for multiple online spaces where people meet up, play games, attend concerts and watch movies.

“It is about the types of experience that are inherently social. We focus on three platforms (Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft) and we see these as digital theme parks,” said Hancock. “Collectively, they have about 400 million monthly active users - Roblox has one billion hours spent on it every single month - and they are mostly the young people that traditional media is struggling to reach.”

TV companies drive and create business-defining IP, and Hancock believes this will have a relevance in the Metaverse.

“If you embed Metaverse thinking into generating new IP then TV can be incredibly relevant. When you roll out a new show it needs to have Tik Tok, Instagram, and licensing strategies, and we think the Metaverse will be a key pillar as the platforms develop,” said Hancock.

“People want to go out and try different things through engagement and interaction. That is where it gets really exciting in the Metaverse because you are not having a lean back experience. You are not seeing stories told through a rectangle,” John Cassy, Factory 42

“Those platforms I talked about are looking for more content, so there are lots of opportunities to build really compelling content. There are wins to be had by just going and testing, and learning by trying to connect with these audiences,” he added. “There will be a lot of rubbish over the next year.”

With the Kids in Mind

Jo Redfearn, Global Brand Director of the start-up 24 Watts, spoke about creating branded content and brands for kids, that exist in the Metaverse.

Jo Redfern headshot portrait

Jo Redfern, 24 Watts

“IP creation is re-set in terms of intellectual property and also through the kids’ lens. The lovely thing is that we are already in the future game, and they are already telling us things and giving us big signposts towards what we believe to be the Metaverse,” said Redfearn. “We are in an age of ‘tech acceleration’ with 76% of global consumers saying their everyday lives are dependant on technology. Amongst the Gen Z it is 79%.

“Let’s not get hung up with defining the Metaverse. Let’s look at kids’ behaviours and what they are doing there, because that is going to present opportunities to TV people,” she added. “Kids are replicating their interests, their hobbies, their passions, and their creativity online. They are buying outfits for their avatars.”

Studies suggest that Gen Z now places as much value on its online activity as its real-life ID. To Redfearn this is an important parity.

“They are meeting friends at the Metaverse Mall, and they hang out there. As their habits evolve in these online realms, creatives, commissioners and producers almost need to shed the bounds of TV as we know it,” she said. “This notion of the Metaverse is going to precipitate a whole raft of digital spaces that present a problem to us in terms of creating content expected to reach kids.

“What we are talking about with the Metaverse does not exist yet. We are taking baby steps, and playing with things you can do in games, but one day it becomes a 3D Internet you step inside,” Zillah Watson, Media and Metaverse consultant

“They do not want multiple sign-ins. They do not want to download apps. They want to be able to move freely online and take their identity across all of those digital realms. It needs a bespoke 360 approach from the ground up when you are building IP,” she added. “Reduce those verticals and those silos, and don’t be scared of gaming.”

Business models are still forming

John Cassy, Chief Executive and Founder of Factory 42, talked about creating a 3D immersive experience in a physical location. It was a high-profile project extending the BBC’s Green Planet.

“There are so many different definitions of what the Metaverse might be, and nobody quite agrees what it might be. [For this event] we took the former Tower Records building in Piccadilly and created a series of rooms based around Green Planet. You could go through different worlds and interact with persistent digital assets using your smart phone to do it,” said Cassy.

John Cassy Headshot

John Cassy, Factory 42

“It had a 96% approval rating, but 78% of people had never watched the TV series. People want to go out and try different things through engagement and interaction,” he added. “That is where it gets really exciting in the Metaverse because you are not having a lean back experience. You are not seeing stories told through a rectangle.”

Cassy was at Sky when it went HD. He said: “That was a big thing at the time, but creating Metaverse experiences is so much more complicated, and so much more involved. You need entirely different people, and within our team we have filmmakers, researchers, architects, theatre makers, software developers, and VFX people.

“They have had to come together and learn a new language. In fact, there are many languages that you have to bring together. The biggest challenge that television faces going into this new world is to find our IP and our own brands,” he added. “Unless you can create an experience that makes sense and engages an audience you’ve got no chance.”

The DCMS was the main funder of the immersive Green Planet event, and the technical heart of it was based around a current 5G project.

“We created a stand alone 5G network which rendered everything that people saw on their phones. It was rendered from the edge of the network in real-time, which is going to be one of the building blocks to allow creatives and brands to deliver the quality of content that you need in real-time to devices so that the Metaverse can flourish,” said Cassy.

Interoperability is the big challenge

Zillah Watson, a Media and Metaverse Consultant, was asked about the Metaverse space now, and how it might evolve.

Zillah B&W photo

Zillah Watson, Media and Metaverse Consultant

She said: “What we are talking about with the Metaverse does not exist yet. We are taking baby steps, and playing with things you can do in games, but one day it becomes a 3D Internet you step inside.

“What we have got now is a load of really amazing technologies that are going to converge in some way, and over the years we will work out different use cases and find what works in terms of business models,” she added. “Everybody needs to keep watching because things will change, and suddenly there will be new models we can follow, but that includes disruption of funding for the creative industry.”

Suggesting that there is a lot of hype to dive beneath, Watson continued: “The Metaverse is going to keep regulators and lawyers very busy. There was (a recent) C4 program on really unpleasant behaviour in Metaverse rooms where people meet.

“So, we need to start thinking about how we make it a good place that people want to be in. There are also lots of issues around data collection in a 3D fully immersed world,” she added. “We have got two conflicting things, a de-centralised Internet and very powerful platforms already holding a major stake in the Metaverse.”

We need to see which way that will go. “In a 360 hyper realistic world trusting what is not is extremely difficult. There are lots of issues there around fake news, which will be exacerbated,” said Watson.

“There are many good things that this can be used for, such as education and healthcare, and advances in the Metaverse for support. We must make sure we design well to reduce the potentially harmful impacts that could come,” she added. “Interoperability is going to be the key standards challenge of the future, because if you have all these digital assets that you can take with your virtual Nike trainers across different platforms, there must be a lot of meetings to negotiate this. That is the big challenge.”