NBCU’s McNamara: The Right Time for SVOD Reality Overseas

Jay McNamara, executive VP of strategy development and analysis for NBCUniversal International, spoke with B&C contributing editor Chris Tribbey about Hayu joining the ever-growing chorus of international subscription video-on-demand services, the technical challenges of getting the service off the ground and the social media integrations crucial to its success. An edited transcript follows.

What led NBCU to launch in the U.K., Ireland and Australia, and how much room is there to grow outside of those areas?

It just made good sense to take a phased approach for the launch of a brand-new service and brand. And we felt that it was best to start with the markets that demonstrated a really strong affinity for U.S. reality/unscripted content. We found there was a particularly strong consumer appetite for U.S. reality content in [those three areas].

What unique technical challenges exist with getting an SVOD/OTT service running smoothly in each region?

The core challenges arose from the fact that there was no template for Hayu, since it’s the first of its kind. We designed Hayu to have bold and beautiful features and aimed to build a very different user experience compared to other more general entertainment services by creating a simple, slick, intuitive interface that integrates news feeds and social media, too. There is also the additional complexity of adding most of the content to the service the same day as it launches in the U.S., which entails adding multiple new episodes to the service every week. We are thrilled with the resulting 360-degree experience that allows users to both lean out [watch streaming content] and lean in [interact with the content and celebrities].

Speak to the social media aspect of Hayu—how crucial is the integration of social media to its success?

Knowing that our core demographic prioritizes social agility, we think it’s a must. We wanted to complement their natural behaviors and put content in their hands that they could interact with and proactively share with their social circles, creating a highly active community of reality fans. They also love the curated and editorialized environment, which allows them to comment and respond to what’s hot and trending. And, uniquely, users don’t have to subscribe to access the short-form content or the news and social feeds since these immersive features sit outside the Hayu paywall.