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“We started a YouTube business but we have moved on” – Puneet Johar, To The Ventures on #fame

Fame Live

YouTube multi-channel network #fame (earlier Famebox Networks) launched a live video streaming app in May 2015. Why did #fame decide to launch its own video app despite being present on the world’s largest video platform, YouTube? What drove the company to set up a mobile app? To find answer to these questions and many others, we spoke Puneet Johar, CEO & Co-founder of To The New Ventures which backs #fame. In the first part of the interview, Johar speaks about the content strategy of #fame,

Content strategy of the live platform

MediaNama: What is Fame’s content strategy on YouTube?

Puneet Johar: First and foremost, we are not a YouTube business. We have some YouTube channels just as we are on Facebook and Twitter and other social media as well. For us, all these media are an extension of our core app. We are India’s first live video app. Our focus is around that. Today, if you look at our content strategy, it allows content that we are creating and content that users are creating to go live on the app immediately. We started a YouTube business but we have moved on. YouTube is only one aspect of the business.

MediaNama:  What drove you to set up your own app/platform?

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Puneet Johar: People expect consistency from you. What does consistency lead to? Consistency leads to a direct relationship with your consumer. We thought having an engaging and direct relationship with our own consumer. We respect the relationships that we found on the back of our YouTube strategy but we thought that the relationships need to be more direct to take ownership of that relationship. So we moved to our own app.

MediaNama: YouTube has its own live streaming as well. How does your live programming work?

Puneet Johar: We have developed the technology on our own for the live programming. Currently on VOD, we are using YouTube. Similarly, there’s Facebook logins. Today, when a platform is built, you have to have the best of everything. Facebook is the best way to login. So you can’t say that I’ll fight that. YouTube has the best video platform so you signup with them.

MediaNama: How is the monetization working on your live streaming app?

Puneet Johar: Currently, the most important revenue stream for us is sponsorships. I don’t think inventory for anyone in India, apart from YouTube itself, is very big in terms of revenue. But a lot of niche channel money from television is flowing to digital. Brands want branded properties. We’ve done School of Style with Karan Johar. Lakme was a big sponsor there. We had just done Web Singer. Close-up had come on board as sponsor.

Traffic to the app

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MediaNama: YouTube has far more reach than your platform. So how will you move viewers from YouTube onto your platform?

Puneet Johar: Our point is not to say that we will not be on YouTube. I never said that. Facebook is also a huge mechanism for videos. In fact, some of our videos get more videos get views on Facebook than they get on YouTube. But that does not mean for a core audience that is looking for a differentiated offering I should not have a direct relationship. It is not an either/or situation.

MediaNama:But you are building a platform to monetize your content there so you need to make a person leave a platform and drive traffic to your platform. When on YouTube, a viewer might either watch Fame’s channel or any other channel than get onto an exclusive app to view content. Reason why, several VOD businesses have even shut down. So why would they come onto your platform? How would you drive traffic?

Puneet Johar: You should not compare past legacy with what is going forward. So let me attack the problem on three fronts. One, do we recognize that YouTube is the leader? Absolutely! And we accept that Facebook is the leader on social media. In that sense, both platforms are critical to our success. And we have great relationships with both platforms. But as a content creator and owner, it is also important for me to establish my own positioning. What is Fame known for? We essentially want to make talent famous. That is our core. I believe there are things that we can do as technological features as a young, innovative company. It could add to what we were doing on YouTube and Facebook. That’s exactly what we have done on our app. We have live video capability which YouTube and Facebook don’t have, chat capability which YouTube and Facebook don’t have. We are introducing gamification of the app in the next month, which allows talent to gamify their live beams. I can’t reveal much now. It will make it extremely interesting for both talent and viewers to go live on the platform. Today, we already have 5000 people signed up, out of which 2000 people are going every month on the platform. That is not small in terms of talent base.

MediaNama: You talk in terms of supply. But what about the demand? How are people coming onto the platform?

Puneet Johar:If you look at all our properties, you cannot say that just because someone is dominant in something, there will be no new innovation that will come up. Like 3 years back, people would have said My Space is there and others are there so why would Facebook come in. There was an innovate feature with which they could launch. Let’s go with that. We are here to be friends with everyone. For us, Facebook and YouTube are extremely important to us. But at the same time, if you see our app, we have introduced the feature where people can go live, talent can chat with their people and that is extremely engaging for people. I’m talking about gamification as a differentiator. In the next month, it will come on the app. Even if you look at our VOD also, we are currently using YouTube servers on our VOD. So we are not fighting with them. We are increasing our views on our YouTube channels. But the live part is our own player.

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MediaNama: How are you getting people from YouTube to go on your app and watch all that content?

Puneet Johar: There are two ways in which any mobile company does. One you have to do a lot of above the line activity. We did IIFA as an event. We just launched the app and did IIFA right. We went straight to 200,000 downloads because IIFA was live on the app. You have to continue to do tent pole properties for people to get excited and get engaged with your app. Once they come on your app, they watch and give you feedback and you make it more engaging, which is how any content business is. Lakme School of Style was another tent pole. We have more tent poles coming up in the next 3 to 4 months to make people get excited and download our app. For below the line, you have to continue to run a download program to push your mobile app more into consumer phones. We are currently on 200,000 phones. We expect to be on 2 million phones by the end of December. It will not be a small audience then. It is not as big as Facebook or YouTube but it is still a great niche.

What goes on YouTube

MediaNama: Does you live content from your app also go up on your YouTube channels? How does that work?

Puneet Johar: Some of it we do, not all content. It is all user created content. There are about 2000 people creating content all the time. So you can’t put all the content up on YouTube. We pick some really good content and work with the talent to put it up.

MediaNama: Do you test your content with a particular audience before you put it up on YouTube? How do you do it?

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Puneet Johar: Our testing is on our own platform. There can’t be a better platform.

MediaNama: But in terms of reach, like you agreed, we can’t compare the number of YouTube and your app at this point in time, both in terms of the library of content and the audience base. How do you test your content to click in YouTube’s pool of content and do well there?

Puneet Johar: It is very simple. We know which talent has traction through our live content. You might say it is small but 200,000 downloads are not small. It is quite significant. What it does is that you immediately know which talent is popular and which talent is not popular. Our strategy is completely focused around talent. If we know that a certain talent is getting traction then the videos we make with them also get traction. The point is that because we have our own platform the kind of insights and analytics we get are far richer. We know what our talent is doing on a daily basis, we know what our viewers want and we amplify that. Our platform is the best testing ground. There is no better testing ground than our platform. It is highly analytical driven. It is a big data platform that supports it at the back. It gives huge amounts of insights for us to know what content is working and what is not working.

MediaNama: What is the source of your traffic on YouTube right now? Is it largely mobile or PC or other devices?

Puneet Johar: I don’t have the exact statistics right now but I would say 50-60% of our traffic is from mobile and the rest is from desktop.

MediaNama:Why didn’t you start with the PC first and follow it up with mobile?

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Puneet Johar: Because 70% of the traffic was on mobile.

MediaNama: Why not tap into the existing desktop viewers as well? Why not a desktop version?

Puneet Johar: We don’t have a desktop version and you are absolutely right. We should be launching our PC version by August. But we started with a mobile first strategy. But we know that we cannot ignore the PC audience.

MediaNama: Considering that you have moved to your platform from YouTube, what were you learnings from YouTube? What will you not do on your platform?

Puneet Johar: What has worked for us, I will say. I think high impact properties like School of Style with Karan has really worked for us. You’ll see a consistent strategy of with our Fame Comedy and Fame Fashion on YouTube, which are doing exceedingly well. Consistency and high impact works on YouTube. I think trying to do the long tail and sporadic content have not worked for us.

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