Disney (NYSE:DIS) is placing a bet on virtual reality, but the juicy implications may have to wait. Variety is reporting this morning that the family-friendly media giant is part of a $65 million financing round for virtual reality upstart Jaunt, and while it's easy to daydream about virtual treks through its theme parks, Star Wars video games, and Marvel-fueled theatrical experiences, it's also important to frame things in the proper perspective.
For starters, Disney is just one of several investors buying a small stake in Jaunt. It is joined by a global grab bag of media companies including Europe's ProSiebenSat.1 SE and Axel Springer SE as well as Asia's China Media Capital.
Variety is also pointing out that the $65 million raised in this Series C financing round -- along with roughly $35 million raised earlier -- makes this the biggest funding event for a virtual reality company. That's technically true. Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) Oculus VR raised just shy of $100 million before it was gobbled up by the social networking giant in a $2 billion deal. However, no one is suggesting that Jaunt would be as much as what Facebook shelled out for Oculus last year in an IPO or an outright sale.
Jaunt claims that the money raised will help it ramp up its hardware and software tools as well as its California-based production facilities. However, it's OK to be a little jaded. Turning to a bunch of media heavyweights worldwide for financing instead of the traditional venture capitalist route suggests that this is also about making Hollywood connections.
Let's also not start pitting Facebook's Oculus against Jaunt. They're actually partners. Jaunt's cross-platform viewer renders content for several virtual devices including Oculus Rift, the highly anticipated gaming and experience headset that will hit the market early next year.
The long-term implications of Disney buying into virtual reality in general and Jaunt in particular are juicy. Disney runs the world's most popular theme parks and owns the most-watched sports network in ESPN. It has also cut 10-figure checks for Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, enhancing its already impressive in-house arsenal of hot properties and beloved characters. It's hard to fathom a media company that is better suited for the potential of virtual reality in the realm of entertainment than Disney. However, unless Disney decides to follow Facebook into an outright purchase, this funding event is simply Disney getting its foot in the door -- even if that foot happens to be wearing a yellow Mickey Mouse shoe.