‘India will become home to one of the most prolific digital content markets in the world’

Earlier this year Toronto-based content company QYou Media expanded its India presence by incorporating a subsidiary company QYou India and naming former Sony Pictures Entertainment president worldwide networks Andy Kaplan as the chairman of the newly formed subsidiary.

The aim of the company is to become a premier destination for the very best original, digital-first content in India.

Last month QYou Media launched the Q India mobile app on the Google Play store. Featuring content from local creators and talent, the direct-to-consumer app aims to expand Q India’s footprint within India and to the additional tens of millions of expatriate fans of Indian-created content globally.

The company has content tie-ups with local creators like Culture Machine, Pocket Aces, and The Comic Wallah. The new service also adds to the 230 million+ consumers on mobile and TV that are already engaging with QYou’s curated content through partnerships with leading TV and mobile providers in the region.

TelevisionPost.com’s Ashwin Pinto caught up with QYou Media CEO Curt Marvis to find out about the company’s plans.

Excerpts:

How has QYou Media grown its presence globally in the past few years?

The goal from the start has always been to turn QYou into a global millennial entertainment brand. In the first couple of years, we focused on making our programming as widely available as possible by signing distribution deals with the likes of Ericsson and Tata Sky. Since then our global audience reach has hit the 300 million mark and this can be attributed to our increased focus on developing localized programming and the creation of our Heads Up Daily (HUD) format.

What have been the learnings from operating in the digital and multiscreen space?

What we’ve learned from operating in both ‘traditional’ and digital worlds is that neither is better than the other and in fact, the lines between both are starting to blur. Traditional TV service providers are taking a leaf out of YouTube’s book by bringing online video to their TV audiences.

Meanwhile, new media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter are pursuing the live-streaming content market with gusto, focusing on sports broadcasting and enabling their users to watch high profile sporting tournaments such as the Olympic Games. These trends are actually creating exciting opportunities for both TV service providers and digital platforms.

QYou Media expects 200% revenue growth over the next 2-3 years on an annual basis. What factors will drive this growth?

Over the next few years, our localised formats will underpin our revenue growth. We’ve already launched localised formats in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Poland, and we plan to expand into more markets.

The global shift towards more culturally relevant content is driven by younger audiences who regularly view videos from local creators on social media. As a result, TV service providers trying to enter local territories are realising that they need to develop regional programming that will resonate with younger audiences. It’s something iflix is doing incredibly well in Asia, and it’s why Netflix is trying to compete by doing a huge push in the region and announcing 17 localised shows for consumers in India Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea.

Our revenue growth will also be driven by the production and sales of our original formats such as Heads Up Daily (HUD). We created Hud because we recognised that there was a huge opportunity to capitalise on the appetite for e-sports by taking it from online video channels and bringing it to a TV format that is adaptable across different territories. Many television brands want to get in on the e-sports action, but its online formats are not TV friendly due to tournaments often lasting several hours and focusing on complex games.

How important is Asia in this regard? Which would be your top three markets going forward?

Asia, particularly the Southeast, is a very important market for QYou Media. Mobile video is changing everything so fast, but TV will continue to be relevant for a long time. India has been a huge focus for us, simply because of the sheer size of the potential reach among the 20-30-year-old age bracket that we like to call “Young India”.

We see a lot of potential in Asia as a whole. We’re already present in quite a few territories in Asia as a result of our distribution partnership with iflix, which also includes locally hosted formats in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

How are you building your presence in India?

In order for us to fulfill our ambition of turning Q India into the go-to entertainment brand for millennials, it’s crucial that we have a local team in place to support our partners and drive activity.

We just announced the appointment of Krishna Menon as our Chief Revenue Officer who will be responsible for driving advertising and sponsorship revenue. Krishna is the first senior management appointment we’ve announced for The Q India and he will be working with Sunder Aaron, general manager of The Q India, in Mumbai to help continue raising the profile of the brand

In the last few months we rebranded to Q India; started working with more local creators to help us develop our programming; and launched The Q India mobile app on the Google Play store. We have even more exciting things in store for 2019 which, of course, means continuing to recruit a team of talented people who believe in our vision.

Do you see India’s overall digital content journey being similar to other markets like Japan, the US, Europe or will India thread its own path?

Every single market is unique and has its own opportunities and challenges, and this is especially true of India. Explosive mobile usage; a millennial and gen z audience that makes up roughly half of India’s 1 billion population; and an incredibly diverse culture that’s made up of 22 languages and over 700 dialects means there’s no other region quite like it.

It’s impossible to predict exactly what India’s digital content market will look like in a few years’ time because it’s currently in a state of rapid evolution. However, I do believe it will become home to one of the most prolific digital content markets in the world and I’m incredibly proud that QYou will be a part of that journey.

In India, the business model for digital content has not evolved for content platforms which work mainly in digital. What do you feel about the direction that India will head in when it comes to monetisation and profitability of digital content platforms?

India has a high growth media and entertainment market that’s forecast to be worth Rs 2 trillion by 2020, and that will include the rise of digital content platforms. The booming mobile market and the huge number of Young Indians provides fertile ground for digital content platforms to flourish. The reason QYou has invested so heavily in India is because we see monetisation opportunities for digital-first content, particularly in ad-supported business models.

Which are the local content companies, creators that you work and are looking to work with for content creation?

We currently work with 101 India, Culture Machine, Power Drift, Arre, The Comic Wallah, Pocket Aces, and POPxo, to name but a few, and they help us ensure that the content we produce is authentic and will resonate with Young Indian audiences.

We’re always on the lookout for more talented creatives that can help us ensure that our programming remains fresh, dynamic and relevant.

In India, legacy TV is still expected to thrive in the coming years. Will digital content complement it or take away millennial viewership?

I believe digital content complements legacy TV and that it will actually help television brands stay relevant to millennial audiences. The cord cutting phenomenon among younger audiences is prevalent in markets such as the US and Western Europe, but it hasn’t taken off in India yet.

However, the Indian media and entertainment industry is evolving at an extraordinary pace and it’s very possible that traditional broadcasters and operators will face increased competition from digital players. Tata Sky has set a precedent by bringing digital-first content to its mobile and TV offerings, so it remains appealing to younger viewers, and I’m confident that more broadcasters will soon start following in its footsteps – maybe sooner than you think!

What is the potential that you see in India for QYou Media?

There are a number of opportunities for QYou in India, but we see enormous potential in the mobile market. Last year, India overtook the US as the world’s second largest smartphone market, and by 2022 it will almost have the same number of users as the entire continent of Europe.

A large percentage of these mobile users are made up of Young India. This demographic was born and raised in the digital era, making online video content a daily staple of their entertainment diet. Partnerships with mobile carriers, like Jio, that have well over 100 million subscribers have already provided QYou with greater distribution reach and monetisation potential.

That’s not to say that legacy TV as obsolete, quite the contrary. For the past two years, TV viewership in India has grown by 12% despite the widespread availability of smartphones and cheap data and increased competition from OTT providers like Hotstar and Netflix. However, as Young India continues to become the most lucrative age bracket it is important that traditional TV service providers evolve their offerings in line with this generation’s consumption habits. Apart from Tata Sky, there are virtually no television brands targeting this audience, but I believe Q India can help change that.

India is a very local content market. What are your plans to create local content for India which can travel abroad as well?

QYou Media understands the importance of delivering localised content to an international audience. Prior to the internet, TV service providers simply imported subtitled US shows into local territories. Online video platforms, thankfully, changed all of that by providing consumers with access to culturally relevant content that’s created by homegrown talent.

The programming QYou develops in India is full of local flavor. We achieve this by working with some of the region’s prolific YouTube stars whose channels have millions of views and subscribers. It’s a business model we replicate in other countries, like Poland, but the difference is that we work with Polish content creators and influencers. This approach ensures that our shows are unique to the respective culture and therefore have more brand stickiness.