HTC forms VR partnerships with MLB, F1’s McLaren

Taipei, Taiwan-based smartphone vendor HTC Corp., which is stepping up efforts to enter the virtual reality business, said Friday it is partnering with the American Major League Baseball (MLB) and Formula One (F1) team McLaren in VR development.

The strategic partnerships with the MLB and McLaren were announced at HTC's annual VIVE Ecosystem Conference (VEC2018) in Shenzhen, where the company unveiled its first VR headset -- the Vive -- in 2015, in a bid to expand its VR ecology, the smartphone brand said.

As for the partnership with the MLB, HTC said the two sides will kick off a series of collaborations in China, such as the Baseball Park roadshow in more than 10 major cities as well as "Perfect Pitch," a reality TV show, on the Tencent video network.

HTC said baseball is gaining in popularity among Chinese post-millennials and VR technology is expected to further raise their interest in the sport.

"This cooperation (with HTC) provides MLB with important support to grow the game in China and it delivers an exciting new way for fans to enjoy MLB action," MLB Asia Pacific Vice President Jim Small said in a statement.

Also in the statement, HTC said it is forming a long term strategic alliance with F1's McLaren, which is looking to develop VR products and VR and AR (augmented reality) content for more than 500 million F1 fans around the world.

Under the partnership with McLaren, HTC said both partners will work to organize the world's first VR eSports competition linked to a real professional sport.

HTC added that it will be the official VR partner of McLaren's eSports competition, through which McLaren will search the world for talent to ultimately join its racing team.

"As McLaren continues to develop its eSports program, HTC will help us build on and accelerate our early adoption of this platform," Chief Executive of McLaren Racing Zak Brown said in the statement.

According to HTC, China is one of the largest markets for McLaren car sales and is also the largest eSports market in the world.

At the Shenzhen VEC2018, HTC also launched an upgraded version of the VR system for its standalone VR headset " Vive Focus," which was unveiled in Beijing in November 2017.

HTC Vive's China President Alvin Wang Graylin (???) said the Vive is the most popular VR device in China, accounting for 56 percent of total VR device sales value in the China market, adding that the company is upbeat about the fast pace of VR development and the future 5G market in China.

HTC's efforts to promote VR development aim to offset the impact of escalating competition in the global smartphone market, in high-tech and low-to-mid range segments, but VR headset sales still only account for a small fraction of the company's total revenue.

In April, HTC posted NT$2.1 billion (US$70.21) in consolidated sales, down 24.18 percent from a month earlier and 55.47 percent from a year earlier. The April figure was the lowest monthly sales for HTC since August 2004, when the company's revenue stood at NT$2.05 billion.

In the first quarter, HTC posted net profit of NT$21.1 billion, compared with a net loss of NT$9.8 billion the previous quarter, with earnings per share at NT$25.70.

The first quarter results, which ended 11 consecutive quarters of losses, were boosted by a deal in which the company sold its smartphone ODM assets to Google last year.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel