AOL Acquires RYOT For VR, Will Work With 'HuffPo'

As Grover might say, “Someone needs to give all these capital letters a rest!” In the latest multiacronym multimedia production and distribution tie up, AOL announced the acquisition of RYOT Corp., which specializes in immersive media, including immersive films, linear video, 360-degree productions and VR.

Under AOL’s ownership, RYOT will support expanded production at The Huffington Post, which has already cooperated with RYOT on a major multimedia production, “The Crossing,” documenting the refugee crisis in Greece.

HuffPo’s productions generally cover a range of categories, news, opinion and entertainment; RYOT will work with all 15 of the publisher’s global editions.

RYOT will also support Partner Studio by AOL, the company’s branded content and native advertising outfit, suggesting a plunge into immersive marketing. Ultimately all three entities — Partner Studio by AOL, The Huffington Post and RYOT will work together on new ways for brands to use immersive technology to reach consumers.

Other properties owned by AOL, including Build, Engadget, Makers and TechCrunch, will also be able to tap RYOT’s capabilities.

The acquisition augments the AOL’s capabilities in a field often touted as the next step in media consumption and advertising. However, VR remains uncharted territory in terms of monetization through means like subscriptions, advertising, e-commerce or micropayments (or other models).

Publishers, tech providers and telcos have been snapping up startups with new production and business models at a steady clip in recent months. Earlier this week, Verizon, which acquired AOL in June 2015 and is now considered the lead bidder for Yahoo, joined forces with Hearst to acquire Complex Media, an online media company with a mostly male millennial audience.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal valued Complex between $250 million and $300 million. Hearst has also taken nine-figure stakes in publishers and media companies like Buzzfeed, Vice and United Artist Media Group. Earlier this month Turner led a $15 million investment in Mashable.

The Turner investment may actually be a reflection of growing unease about the long-term viability of online publishing models in general. Earlier this month, Mashable announced a major shakeup and overhaul including layoffs, as part of a “pivot” to television with OTT programming.
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