HONG KONG: Demand in China for virtual reality (VR) headsets is forecast to reach 85.9m units by 2021, according to a new report that expects the development to trigger strong growth in other areas of the entertainment and media sector.

By comparison, a total of 68m new VR headsets will be in use in the US by 2021, reported the South China Morning Post, which also noted that VR content revenue is forecast to reach US$3.6bn in China in four years' time.

The findings come from PwC's latest Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report, which the professional services firm released last week.

PwC predicted that global entertainment and media revenues would increase from $1.8trn in 2016 to $2.2trn in 2021, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.2%, with VR recording a CAGR of 69.2% in the US over the forecast period.

What's more, the VR sector in the US is projected to add nearly the same revenue ($4.6bn) as TV advertising between 2016 and 2021.

Looking at the market in China in more detail, around half of the country's $3.6bn VR content revenue is expected to come from video and 46% from gaming by 2021.

"The entire VR market is new, [and] with increasing VR device penetration and continual investment in the industry, its potential is very promising, even if profitability is an issue at present," said Jane Kong, a partner at PwC China.

"No one will get rich from hardware alone," she added. "The end game for these firms will be attempting to become the standard platform for VR and start to charge royalties or commission from content sales."

PwC also said it expects over-the-top (OTT) services to be worth $4.5bn in China in 2021, while cinema revenues are forecast to soar to $10.7bn as the country continues to build new outlets.

Meanwhile, PwC said China's video gaming industry is continuing to thrive and the sector is expected to be worth $26.2bn by 2021, making the country the second-largest market in the world after the US.

Data sourced from South China Morning Post, PwC, additional content by WARC staff