Hulu is getting a lot of musical artists excited about virtual reality technology, thanks to an unexpected evangelist: Lil Wayne.
His website, Weezy, is "an early adopter" of the technology platform, and helped inspire Hulu's new collaboration with Live Nation, "On Stage," executives said at this year's CES technology trade show last week.
"He's the real deal," Kevin Chernett, Live Nation's executive vice president of global partnerships and content distribution, said at a panel discussion. "His team would tell you he's in VR all the time," said Noah Heller, Hulu's vice president of emerging technology. "He's using it. He's loving it."
Each episode of "On Stage" will feature a different artist. In the first episode, viewers join Lil Wayne's skateboarding crew as they play a concert and explore New Orleans. After seeing what Hulu was able to capture with Lil Wayne, other artists have come on board, Heller said. The next episode will feature electronic dance music group Major Lazer going to a yard party in Jamaica.
Creating narrative episodes about artists' passions — rather than just their live concerts — wasn't the easy path, Heller said. Lil Wayne, for instance, would go skating in the middle of the night after hours of performing, and the whole VR crew had to join, he said.
But Hulu wanted to provide exclusive access that couldn't be found anywhere else, and episodes that could be replayed in the future. Chernett said that after hearing from a lot of entrepreneurs, Hulu's approach was obviously ahead of the mark.
"When I saw the VR piece and the plan that they had, we were blown away," Chernett said. "I didn't even think at that stage that Hulu was thinking about that, … let alone have a whole plan."
"On Stage" marks Hulu's increasing push to become a "home for music," Heller said. It comes at a time when Apple's iTunes or YouTube are increasingly bringing together video and musical streaming content.
"Hulu traditionally has not been known for and focused on music," Chernett said. "That got us more excited than anything, going into this universe together, because we love that. Hulu's been so forward thinking here."