NBCUniversal leverages social media to drive SVOD growth

NBCUniversal's Hendrik McDermott (left) speaking during a keynote at IBC 2017 in Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM—NBCUniversal is growing the subscriber bases for its branded SVODs like Hayu by changing up its video strategy and focusing more on sharing across social media.

Hendrik McDermott, senior vice president of branded on demand for NBCUniversal International, said his company was previously creating short video clips for its own website and seeing minimal engagement. But the company has begun pushing its clips out to platforms like Facebook and Twitter and, as a result, has boosted engagement and convinced more consumers to sign up for VOD products.

McDermott showed two short video clips and generated interactions in the multiple millions and helped add subscribers for Hayu at a cost per acquisition ranging from $4.66 to $9.48.

McDermott said NBC has an in-house team that creates videos for social media at a rate of about three to four a day. He said that some take off and help drive growth and others don’t, but that NBC simply gets rid of the ones that don’t.

“No harm, no foul,” McDermott said.

Hayu is an SVOD that gathers reality TV shows and offers them internationally on the same day they debut in the U.S. In addition to pulling content from NBCUniversal, Hayu has also done distribution deals with programmers like Viacom.

McDermott announced it will be launching in the Nordic countries in the fourth quarter, with the first stop being Norway, where it will be available through pay-TV partnerships and direct-to-consumer.

By the end of the year, Hayu will be available in seven territories, including the U.K., Ireland and Australia. McDermott said that the service has been busy establishing mobile operator partnerships in those territories as well.

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The strategy at NBCUniversal for growing SVOD audiences fits into the company’s overarching investments and interests in digital and social platforms.

At the NAB Show earlier this year, NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said that NBC’s broadcaster competitors would be mistaken to not aggressively pursue social media and digital platforms.

“In so many cases there are shows on other networks that we would go crazy with on social media,” Greenblatt said.

NBC recently made a $500 million strategic investment in Snapchat parent company Snap and has also been aggressive in launching programming for Snapchat, both standalone series and complimentary content for events like the 2016 Summer Olympics.

In addition, NBC has been partnering with digital media companies such as BuzzFeed and Vox.