Maker Studios’s René Rechtman


There has been much hand-wringing about the relationship between Millennials and the TV screen. One company that has seemingly figured out the conundrum of what Millennials want to watch is Maker Studios, which boasts the largest content network on YouTube, attracting more than 10 billion views every month. As René Rechtman, the head of international, explains, the company is looking at new partnerships across the globe, from launching on CANALPLAY in France to rolling out a service with the telco Globe in the Philippines.

WS: Tell us about your international strategy.
RECHTMAN: We are investing in local talent and content and then expanding with people on the ground. And then we’re monetizing across different platforms—not only on YouTube. We’re constantly looking at different ways of monetizing. We’re successful because we’re so local. What I’m focused on currently is our expansion into China, Japan and India. We have the viewership in those markets already, but we need to get in [on the ground].

WS: What do you look for in new talent?
RECHTMAN: There’s no art or science to that—it’s a combination. Because we have so much data, and we have viewership all over the world, we can see who are [the most popular] content creators. If they’re not on our platform when we enter a market, we start conversations with them. Secondly, we have discovered everywhere we go that the big creators are coming to us as well. As soon as we’re on the ground, they know that we take that market seriously, so they engage with us. That’s the less scientific way of conquering the local markets. Then it’s looking at what verticals we want to be in. Typically there are four big verticals for us: gaming, lifestyle, kids and family, and entertainment. We look at how we’re indexing compared to the market size. If we’re under-indexing we want to get creators in that category. If we’re over-indexing we focus on other categories.

WS: Gaming is such an interesting space. Who knew that people wanted to watch other people play video games!
RECHTMAN: It’s an opportunity for a younger generation to express themselves in a way that their parents maybe don’t get. The game is just a means of having fun. It’s just like comedy very often. The game is just a scene. Let’s play it, but everything else that happens around [the playing] is really the content. I have a friend in fashion content. He looked at the category and then called me back a week later and said, “Now I get it—it’s the art of geniuses!” So if you’re a traditional content creator and you really try to understand it, you will. The DNA of our company is very much that the talent we work with are the innovators, are constantly on the forefront of what’s next when it comes to content formats.

WS: Do traditional programmers still not fully understand that you can’t take long form and chop it up and then call it short form?
RECHTMAN: A year ago it was all about that. And you still see it, people with archives or libraries that they try to put out there. That approach very seldom works. Peppa Pig fits that short-form expression so well—it’s a format that works on all screens. People playing with Hello Kitty, that’s very much a category that only fits on the small screen. So I do think that people are looking at [short form] now with more contemporary glasses, but we’re not there yet. There are not enough producers, directors and writers who understand that if you have a limited amount of time, you cannot build a story from the bottom. You start from the peak and you never leave the peak and never go in a valley. The second you go in a valley, people disappear. When I look at younger kids, who are 4 or 5, if there is a valley in what they’re looking at, they’re off. It doesn’t matter if it’s their favorite category of content. If it slows down, they’re gone.

WS: Based on your analytics, what kind of window do you have when a piece of content begins playing to capture the attention of your audience? Is it one minute, two minutes?
RECHTMAN: Way, way less! We’re talking about the first few seconds. Thirty seconds and you’re already gone. [Consider] what we look at on Facebook. If [you’re not interested in a post] right away, you just scroll down! On YouTube you have a little bit more time. Snapchat I haven’t figured out yet, in terms of what the attention span is.

WS: What are your priorities for Maker’s international business in the next year?
RECHTMAN: Local talent for sure, and investing in local content, mostly [shows that] can travel. We’re doing a scripted show out of Singapore and I believe that format will work well and we can send it all over the world. We’re going to expand into more countries. Then we’re going to experiment across different platforms. Right now we see [our audiences] spend 70 percent of their [online viewing] time on YouTube, so that platform is a very big priority for us. But then there’s the 30 percent spent on other platforms, so we will be there too. Then there is Mum and Dad paying for Netflix. We need to be on these kinds of platforms. Then pay TV as well, because Mum and Dad are paying for that as well. Wherever the audience is, we’ll be there.