How do you immerse television viewers at home in the excitement and immediacy of an outdoor rock concert? To convey the electricity of a live Citi Concert Series performance on the iconic TODAY plaza, TODAY employed cutting-edge virtual reality technology. Using free TODAY-branded Google Cardboard Glasses, viewers were able to watch the popular dance-rock quartet DNCE perform their biggest hits in a 360-degree video livestream, including their Top 10 single "Cake by the Ocean" and the international hit "Toothbrush." TODAY's special VR livestream host @AlexOnThePlaza kept viewers engaged between performances through VR Extras, including a "DNCE dance off" and fun facts. Supplementing the experience, TODAY.com published a digital-only virtual reality experience, DNCE performing their song "Body Moves."
TODAY alerted fans about the special concert a week before the performance through the "Citi Concert Series on TODAY" e-newsletter, which allowed them to enter to win the Google Cardboard Glasses. TODAY received nearly 40,000 requests and fulfilled orders for the first 10,000 entrants, using messaging and demos to instruct new users on how to use the devices.
During the week leading up to the event, the TODAY team provided on-air teases and social media posts to get viewers excited. For more information they were encouraged to go to TODAY.com, which provided guidance on how to view the concert in VR360 content depending on which platform viewers were on at home.
The results exceeded expectations. TODAY had 39,789 total viewers of the 360-degree VR content, both live and on-demand. The 360 concert performed about twice as well as traditional TODAY broadcast livestreams, and the VR Concert on-demand clips were 10 times as popular as the most popular conventional video from the concert, the "Cake by the Ocean" performance.
On the morning of the concert, the DNCE VR Concert livestream was the top-performing post on the TODAY.com homepage. The average time spent watching varied from 6:45 (Android) to 7:21 (iOS), indicating that those watching with the goggles were fully engaged by the experience. Over the next several weeks, more than 35,000 viewers watched the on-demand clips.
TODAY's Facebook promotion of the event reached almost 73,000 people, and there was strong engagement on Twitter as well. "Can't to see Al Roker dancing to 'Cake by the Ocean'" was a typical reply; "Just watched @DNCE on the @TODAYshow VR glasses. That is very cool, awesome!!" tweeted another fan.