Curt Marvis Talks QYou Expansion


Curt Marvis, CEO and co-founder of QYou Media, tells World Screen Newsflash about how the company is bringing short-form digital content to linear TV, localized in key territories across the globe.

Well before running digital entertainment at Lionsgate and founding the OTT provider CinemaNow, Curt Marvis spent much of his career as a producer of music videos in the early days of MTV. The channel’s approach to curated music content would serve as the seed of an idea that blossomed into QYou Media as YouTube emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the media business. “There was this massive, incredibly popular new video format that was being shown on YouTube,” Marvis says. “There were 600 hours of new videos that were uploaded to it every minute. Every video that I have ever produced in my lifetime has somehow found its way onto YouTube. We said, this is going to be the new TV screen and it’s coming on very fast—this was about four years ago—so there has to be a business around curating and packaging it. Rather than just showing the individual clips, what if we start to package that stuff together into more of a show format?”

Those packaged shows run on a 24/7 linear channel that has secured carriage in a slew of markets worldwide. “It’s a 24-hour seven-day-a-week channel, just like CNN or MTV or Disney Channel or anything else. We’re bridging the gap between the traditional television aesthetic of programs and shows and grids and schedules, and the mobile, find your own VOD space. The key to everything is we target the 20- to 30-year-old audience, the older Gen Z and younger millennials. They’re not junior high school kids who can sit on YouTube all day long. They don’t have that time, so we find the best stuff for them, we put it all in one place.”

A key learning along the way, Marvis says, is that the service had to be localized. “The original concept was of getting cool videos from all over the world. But we started to say, in India they need to be Indian YouTube creators, in Mexico they need to be Mexican YouTube creators, in Poland they need to be Polish YouTube creators. We knew that the people creating the content that we were packaging were also social influencers—they were on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. So we had this ability to use the people creating the content to promote our services and our channel. To make our model really work the way we envisioned it, of having creators talk about their shows on our platform, we needed them to be in the local territory.”

Marvis’s team uses a variety of metrics to determine what content to license in any given territory. “Part of it is popularity, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes we’ll find a YouTube channel that has only 10,000 subscribers with just amazing content on it. We have a lot of data sources. We’ll look at what the YouTube audience is going for. We built our own proprietary search process, and we’ll go out and say, let’s find ten fashion channels. We’ll go to the creators directly and say we want to license the content, non-exclusively. For our audience, the young generation that has grown up in the world of mobile and internet, it’s not about exclusivity.”

Rather than offering creators minimum guarantees, QYou gives them a share of the channel’s revenues. “One Indian creator wanted a minimum guarantee—he said, When I post a video 20 million people see it and I can’t give it to you on a rev-share basis. I said, Congratulations, that means there 1 billion, 180 million Indians who haven’t seen it, let’s help you find some of them to watch your content. And by the way, the 20 million that have seen it, if they find it on our channel, they’ll watch it again. In India, where we’re quite well developed, we’re starting to hear, hey, how do we get onto your channel?”

India is intended to serve as the model for QYou’s Asian aspirations. Run by Sunder Aaron as general manager, QYou India has carriage on Jio, Tata Sky and Airtel. Outside of India, QYou has a deal with iflix for a weekly branded show, localized in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. Indonesia and the Philippines are the most likely markets to receive a full 24-hour channel in the future, Marvis says. In Europe, meanwhile, Poland is the flagship market at present. “We’re not big enough or well-funded enough to take it all over the world all at once, so let’s make India our example for what we will do around Asia and let’s make Poland our example for Europe. We’re still running the international channel in 17 markets. But we’ve realized that’s not the way to win those markets. Even in a place like the Netherlands, where we have a lot of carriage, we still need Dutch content creators; we just haven’t gotten there yet. So we’re keeping the shelf space if you will, and eventually we’ll convert the shelf space market to market. But I won’t do it in Belgium; it’s not big enough for us to make a difference.”

Longer term, Marvis explains that QYou, once it achieves scale in a given territory, will start to make original programming with the creators it has licensed content from. “In India this year, there’s certainly the possibility that we might start to create a couple of original shows that are done in tandem with some of our QYou India artists, that are exclusive to QYou. Over time we’ll start to build up our own library and assets of original content targeting that young audience.”

Marvis notes that the channel enables advertisers and brands to reach the “elusive” millennial and Gen Z audience. “We’re brand-safe because it’s pre-curated and pre-packaged. And it’s appealing to the audience they want to get to. We think we’ll be able to be leaders in terms of how to do advertising and branding to reach that audience through curated packaged formats of content.”