QYOU Media headquartered in Canada and Los Angeles is eyeing Asia’s 2nd largest market and its burgeoning young audience with an equally exciting new proposition. They want to serve digital-first content to TV audiences.
Even as most new media entrepreneurs are going the digital way, The Q India is taking a different approach. The Q India’s first focus is on traditional Pay-TV, where it feels that this audience is still underserved. As the completely owned subsidiary of QYOU Media, the channel has been targeting the Hindi-speaking audience in the age group of 20-30 years. In 2020 The Q India got onto the free dish and also BARC.
In a telephonic conversation with Sunder Aaron, Co-Founder & MD, The Q, and Krishna Menon, COO The Q on being on the free dish, BARC ratings, original content, influencer marketing, and much more…
How did The Q navigate through the pandemic?
We were able to survive and even thrive in many ways during this pandemic. We expanded our overall business operation, the team, and our distribution reach. The one thing which did not expand was the advertising revenue; this was due to several environmental factors, foremost because the businesses were under lockdown and advertising just did not happen as a result. In February last year, we were to close a few big deals but the pandemic struck and they went on hold. So, we as a group had a choice of closing shop for a few months or plow on. We continued to manage some revenues and build our audience, so I am proud of the team for achieving that. In fact, in the New Year, our viewership has grown 400% in the last 3-4 months. While we got our first BARC ratings in March 2020, it’s taken about a year for the ratings to show that we are gaining a lot of traction. In fact, we recently made the decision to invest in Free Dish, and are now looking forward to reaching a much bigger audience via the platform. So, over time, we have now increased our audience base to a monetizable level such that we would now finally be able to spend on Marketing and other branding activities — efforts which we were not able to make due to the paucity of resources.
Distribution wise we may not be that big but ratings-wise we are close to Bindass, MTV, Zoom and others. But now with the addition of Free Dish and Dish TV at the beginning of April, our viewership is going to go up considerably and we expect to monetize that in a bigger way.
A certain genre of advertisers did advertise in a big way on News Media even during the lockdown, did you reach out to them?
We had a very restricted roster of advertisers coming our way, for us to break ground with a new set of advertisers is difficult and also we are comparatively a new channel. Those who were advertising big on news media were of a particular category like E-commerce, health and hygiene, etc. and they were able to deliver products and services during the lockdown but a lot of other product categories, FMCG went off for a long time as there were a supply and demand crunch.
We are a new channel and at an early stage with a limited roster of advertisers, as we go forward we are building a larger roster of clients and we are starting to work with them as we speak. We are widening our portfolio with our advertising partners.
In 2020 everybody was in a state of shock when the pandemic hit and now everybody is getting back into the groove. In this pandemic, our viewership has grown in the last couple of quarters, as this growth is organic and due to moving onto the Free Dish. But now we have to start generating revenues and increasing the scale of the business.
What will be your content strategy?
We have always been looking out for young Indians who are creating content, digital content creators, social media influencers who have great content. We curate all this and telecast it on our channel. We have in the past six months also licensed some interesting content and most of it has a social video component. We have now got into animation, not the kids kind but for adults. We would also be creating our own original content. We have a show called, ‘KyaBoltaInsta’, this is like a fun current update and review of what is trending on Instagram. It is hosted by a couple of our stars who are digital content creators and that show has gained a lot of traction. We are developing a few other shows hoping to entice the Free Dish audience. We are expecting to release about 6 original series this year, including shows in the Crime, Horror, and Comedy genres. We will continue to source excellent content from our partners who are creating programming for their social media outlets and channels.
What are the advantages of being on the free dish? Will this help you to expand in other languages and demographics?
Our mission has always been to address young Indians; we started in Hindi and our intent has always been to create a vernacular mix, be it Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi etc. We were not able to do this last year due to the pandemic so hopefully this year we will have our first vernacular feeds up and running; Tamil & Telugu has always been a priority.
We have audiences who are young aspiring Indians whether be it urban or metro or non-metro. We have to figure out a way to attract Indians where ever they are in that age group. A challenge for us would be how to marry the tastes on our single channel, because a 25-year-old in UP may not have the same tastes as a 25-year-old in Mumbai. The programming content has to be such that it excites both of them regardless of where they are watching it.
How is the Influencer Marketing division performing?
Krishna Menon: It was a blessing in disguise, we actually got BARC on board on 12th March 2020, and went into a lockdown on 21st March 2020, just nine days later, but we were never able to exploit the BARC numbers however low they were. As the lockdown continued and everything was at a standstill we concentrated on Influencer Marketing. That has been our savior for 2020. It has grown exponentially and currently, we have a roster of clients we work with, some are repeat clients like Groww, VLCC, Storytell, RummyBazi, MPL, etc.- we are the exclusive agency for some of them and we do campaigns month on month for them. We do all kinds of campaigns, right from influencing a shopper who goes on an eCommerce platform to buy. We do reviews to large-scale influencer marketing campaigns. No money was small for us those days; we did it irrespective of the size of the campaign. Our TV teams consisting of 4-5 people have adapted. We now have to do influencer marketing as a business. They learned the business, executed, and pitched. For, the entire 2020 the only rockstar was the influencer marketing business.
Do you depend on known names for Influencer marketing?
Krishna Menon: We are not influencer agnostic, we are very clear on the fact that we work with anybody in the business. The advantage that we have a list of social media superstars who we are already associated with, as they are digital content creators and they feature in one or two shows of ours on our channel. This makes it easier for us to reach out to them, convince them to do campaigns, negotiate commercials. We have never sourced a face as yet for our influencer marketing. The brief we get, depending on the kind of influencers they want, whether it is an A-lister, Blister, or a micro-influencer. We have a backend tool that we use to identify these influencers, this tool gives us insights into each and every influencer; the number of followers they have and the market from which their followers are coming from. So when we slice a campaign we know exactly which influencer will work for that particular campaign. My KPI’s or deliverables committed to my client is far more effective as compared to anybody else.
What would be your Focus for 2021?
We will make sure that we are successful with our new distribution reach, now adding Free Dish which will have to lead to a higher level of revenues. We would be launching a few original series. Like said earlier we did not have the funds to Market our channel and the brand earlier but now this year we will be focusing more on it. So, continued distribution reach, monetization of this new reach, brand building/marketing and original content.
On content what would be your focus now as OTT is surging ahead?
We experimented with animation and it has worked very well for us. There are other genres that we believe will really work well with the young Indian audience, but we realize that we cannot dominate and take them away from what they are watching. It is all about carving out our own space and building the brand so that in 3-5 years’ time we will become the go-to brand for Young Indians, much like what MTV was for its generation in the 80’s and 90’s. We believe that there is a white space in the market for us, which is to be the leading young Indian brand.
Our objective is to make a channel that offers programming that the young Indian wants to watch, whether he or she can watch our channel in a metro, megacity, rural or non-metro household. The Q is truly made for Young Indians and by Young Indians, and that is truly our brand proposition.
What are your expansion plans in India?
Our business ethics and culture are to stay lean and stay hungry. We have a team of 25 and we are expanding in the next few weeks. We are hiring a few senior people so we are very excited about that. Adding senior resources will help us push the business scale (and scope) to another level before 2021 end.