National Geographic is teaming up with YouTube on a long-term, virtual-reality video partnership. The two companies will create three VR series over the next year that take audiences on immersive expeditions to “the far reaches of the world.”
The partnership kicks off with “The Okavango Experience,” a four-part series on “one of the last wild places on earth,” the Okavango Delta.
The first episode of the series went live on December 11 on National Geographic’s YouTube channel, website and VR app on Google’s Daydream platform.
The partnership with YouTube "allowed us to publish 'The Okavango Experience' in the place where our audience was most likely to find it," Jenna Pirog, senior director,video and immersive experiences at National Geographic, told Publishers Daily.
YouTube is also providing “production, technical and moral support” on this project.
Successive episodes of the series will release weekly on Tuesdays. Each episode runs about five minutes long. The content was created to be watched with VR headsets, but can also be viewed on desktop and mobile.
In the series, viewers follow a National Geographic Society expedition to the largest wetland in Southern Africa, coming face-to-face with a lion, exploring the world’s largest remaining elephant population and learning the importance of protecting the rivers in the region.
“These are the storytelling experiences that make our audiences feel more connected to places around the world, like the Okavango, and to our fight for a planet in balance," Pirog said.
National Geographicchose to film the Okavango series in VR so “viewers really get a sense of the lengths our scientists and filmmakers go to, in order to share what they see and hear on the ground," Pirog said.
Immersive technology is an important tool to "propel us on our mission to bring our audiences closer to understanding the environments around them — and, more importantly, those they may never have the chance to experience in person,” she added.
The release of “The Okavango Experience” coincides with the TV premiere of “Into the Okavango,” a feature-length documentary created by National Geographic Documentary Films. It's about a four-month, 1,500-mile expedition across three countries, following the river system that feeds the Okavango Delta.
The documentary premieres Friday, December 14 on the Nat Geo WILD channel.