hayu – the all-reality TV and ad-free subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming service from NBCUniversal – was launched in India in Decembar 2021. It Launched direct-to-consumer (DTC) on a full array of devices: mobile, tablet, laptop, connected TVs and selected consoles.
Targeting the broad base of viewers who are fans of the reality genre, hayu offers over 8,000 episodes of top reality TV content including all seasons of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, from the very beginning to the final season, as well as its spin-offs – along with numerous other franchises, including the popular The Real Housewives, Top Chef, Million Dollar Listing and Family Karma.
In an exclusive chat with Medianews4u, Hendrik McDermott, Managing Director, Direct to Consumer, Global at NBC Universal speaks to us on the launch of hayu, the partnership with Amazon and much more…..
What made you launch hayu in India last year?
I will just give you a little bit of history. hayu is the first all reality TV subscription video-on-demand platform, which we launched in 2016 in the UK, Ireland, and Australia. Since we launched, we have been very much looking at how to grow and expand the platform. We’ve had a very strong success in those initial three markets, but we’re really trying to grow the platform to be as big as it can. We have expanded now to 29 different markets around the world, and almost every year we have been in business, we have looked at one specific region and expanded the platform. So, in 2017, we moved into the Nordic region, in 2018, we expanded into Canada and the Benelux; 2019 was into Southeast Asia, like the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and then last year, we did quite a large expansion across Western Europe, a whole bunch of countries there, and then ultimately focused on India, which is the most recent launch that we have had. And the reason for it specifically is we do a lot of research projects around the world to look at content and the desire for content in various markets. We have done extensive research on the Indian marketplace to discover that there’s a large group of people who are interested in the content specifically that we have, that is, US-led reality TV. 33% of our addressable base has a strong interest in reality TV, of that group of people, there are about three-quarters of them who are very interested in US reality TV.
That led us to this market. We also actually do a lot of research through our YouTube channel, which might sound a bit strange, but we’re able to see how the viewing on our YouTube channel goes. We put a whole bunch of content, which is short-form content, and not the full episodes onto YouTube, and in a way, India is by far at the top of that list in terms of consumption, so it’s just another indicator that we knew that the content itself is very desirable here.
Today the Indian audience has a wider range, all thanks to Amazon and Netflix and other platforms, where we all consume a lot of international content. What is it that you are offering differently that the Indian audience will switch to?
We are a premium video on demand platform focused entirely on reality TV. We are not a general entertainment service, like Netflix and Amazon. We very much view ourselves to be a complimentary service to that. In this day and age, lots of people are stacking different SVOD services on top of each other, which mean they are buying more than two or three, or four services and we are really focused on a specific genre and a specific demographic of person, which will like reality TV. We are not expecting people to cancel a subscription from Netflix to have a hayu subscription. We think that there’s a group of people who are very passionate about reality TV, and they will add this service to their existing collection of subscriptions.
You have also tied up with Amazon Prime Video. How does this partnership benefit you and is there a revenue sharing on it?
I can’t discuss the commercial terms because it is protected through the confidentiality of the deal, but yes, we do have a commercial relationship with Amazon prime video channels. And we, in fact, have a relationship across most of our territories. We are in on their platform in about eight different markets right now, and India’s the most recent one. We are very active in the partnership space. We have numerous different types of platform partners around the world. Amazon is one of them, but in every one of our markets, we have multiple different partners. The reason for it is it gets us a broader reach and a broader distribution of our platform; there are some people who want to watch on their phone, who want to sign up on the web. But there are some people who are already watching content on Amazon. This gives us a chance to provide our service, provide our content to those people, without them having to switch to a different application or a different phone or whatever else. So it’s really to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to be able to consume our content.
Are you seeing a growth in subscriptions thanks to Amazon now?
Yes, of course. I think to a certain extent the Amazon platform or any other distribution partner; they have their own pool of subscribers that we’re able to address and that might be a different pool of subscribers that we might be able to address by our marketing and our suite of apps and websites. So, absolutely Amazon is a part of our distribution strategy, and we are seeing very strong subscription growth on that.
There are a plethora of platforms in India and thanks to the pandemic; the surge of OTT has really grown. So, are you planning to tie up with other platforms and also telecom providers?
It is very much a pillar of our strategy. We are absolutely in conversation with numerous other potential platform partners, not just in India, but across the port, as I said, it is, it is a big part of our strategy, in all our markets. In some of our markets, like Canada, for example, we have numerous different cable platforms that are partnered with us. We are of course partnered with all the major app stores and everything else and very active in that space, and there are various kinds of partnerships that we can do. Amazon is one example where our content is sitting, on the Amazon platform. But we have examples of partnerships we’ve struck in other territories where, for example, the hayu platform is bundled inside of a mobile phone package, or it’s bundled inside of a preexisting TV package. All these are different types of partnerships that we’re looking at.
Indians love reality. I think that’s why Bigg Boss and so many other shows do well in India. So, would you be looking at doing something which is India or Southeast Asia-centric?
At the moment, we’re not because we are a, us content led in the English language, predominantly service. So, we are really a distribution platform for preexisting well-known franchises. At this point, we are not producing our own content. However, it’s a strategy that we continue, to evolve over time as we are constantly evaluating how to grow and expand our platform. So, it’s something that we might look at in the future.
What would be your focus in India for 2022?
As we have just launched, we are very focused now on building our brand and building our brand awareness. We’ve had a very large marketing campaign in December and into January; we’ve been very active in traditional media marketing. So you’ve maybe hopefully seen many of our advertising around. A huge focus for us right now is to build awareness. Then after that, we have so much new content coming into the platform that we will continue to promote it. Then the focus really will be on trying to drive as many subscriptions to the platform as possible once we’ve made as many consumers aware of the brand as possible.
Is the tie-up with Amazon also opening up for you an audience, which is not an English-speaking, urban audience, but an audience that is aspiring to know English? Is your tie -up with Amazon opening up that market for you, i.e. the tier 2, tier 3 aspiring market in India?
Yes, I think so. I think what we are trying to accomplish is to get broad distribution so that anyone could sign up. I would say because we are a reality-only subscription service, we are focused on a specific type of person. It tends to be a young female, English-speaking audience. So that is primarily where we are trying to distribute our platform. But of course, Amazon is a much wider general entertainment service. So it does open a broader demographic and a broader genre of people.
How did this platform come into existence?
NBC Universal is one of the world’s largest unscripted and reality TV production openings. They produce almost 2000 hours of unscripted content per year. And that primarily comes through our flagship brands domestically, which are Bravo E and Oxygen, which are all very large, um, distributed TV channels that focus on unscripted and reality content. So as a result, we have a huge catalog of content and hayu is fortunate enough to access all that content. All of the shows that are produced for those channels have come out to our platform. So we have over 8,000 hours of content and we add a thousand new hours per year. And that access gave us the ability to create this genre-based service. So, we did a lot of research, not just in India, the UK, just everywhere, just in terms of what the interest is in scripted content. And certainly, reality TV is something that has been growing and growing in nature, in stature, across the world.
We see very strong engagement figures and in viewing figures on our platform. In our markets, the average amount of content that one of our user’s watches per month varies between 16- and 20-hour hours per month, which is a lot, I think in terms of viewing. And it’s only been two or three months for us here in this market, but so far, we’re seeing that in India, the average is about 17 hours of content. So, it’s a strong engagement. We know that there is a real desire for the content, for a specific type of person to consume.
Are all the shows Live or are we in India watching shows which have been watched across the globe?
It’s both. Our content catalog goes back to season one, episode one of every single show. And that’s why we have over 8,000 hours, but then all of the new shows come into the platform immediately on the same day within two hours of them going live in the US. It’s designed specifically for people, for reality TV fans who tend to be very passionate about the shows that they’re watching, and they don’t want to wait to watch those shows. Sometimes the plot lines get written about in the newspaper or in podcasts and things like that. So we’re very sure to make sure that the content comes into the platform very quickly.
Are you seeing more people watching your shows on mobile or on a smart TV?
We give the option for everything; we have built an app for just about every platform. I think I can’t think of any apps that we haven’t built yet. Whether it is a feature of the Indian marketplace or the nature of our content platform, which skews to a younger audience, most of our viewing is on small screens, so mobiles and tablets, particularly. In the UK, we can also put laptop computers into that category. In India, 50% of our viewing comes from mobile. And again, its only been two months. I think the content itself lends itself to that. So what we see, in other markets, people like to also watch content while they’re commuting, if they’re on the train or, or on a bus or whatever and this type of content, it’s not a film, it’s not a scripted drama, so you can sort of watch parts of it, maybe 10 minutes while you’re on the, on the train and then watch another 10 minutes on the way home. So it lends itself, I think, to a smaller screen view.
This is why we introduce, the download feature. So all the episodes of content on the platform, you can download onto your phone so that you can watch them anytime.
What is the subscription rates?
Today we have a 12 month and a 3-month subscription. And that’s because at the moment we do not have a monthly recurring subscription because of the banking regulations in the country. We are hoping to introduce that later in the year. Normally, in all our other markets, we have a monthly subscription. But here now the 3-month subscription is Rs. 349. And the annual subscription is Rs. 999.