NBCU to expand Hayu SVOD service’s reach

HAYU_SIZZLE_IPAD_4_DEVICENBCUniversal International’s reality TV SVOD service, Hayu, will widen its reach with new rollouts, download to-view options and a physical retail presence by the end of the year.

Speaking at the OTTtv World Summit in London this morning, Hendrik McDermott, senior vice-president – branded on-demand, Hayu at NBCUniversal, said Hayu will announce a deal with a “major platform” in the UK in about a week’s time – adding to its existing presence on Virgin Media’s TiVo platform.

The subscription service will also roll out as an app for Apple TV “in the coming weeks” following its release last week on Amazon’s rival Fire TV devices. Offline mobile viewing will be added later this quarter, while work on HTML5 apps is also underway.

In terms of retail presence, Hayu will launch physical gift cards in high street shops in December, something McDermott predicted would be “an important contributor” for its young female-skewing demographic, as it will allow parents and friends to gift access to the service.

“We’ve been in the market for about seven months now and I think it’s fair to say that we have a dual strategy – we’ve gone clearly on a direct-to-consumer basis, but our goal is to get wide reach and distribution,” said McDermott.

Hayu originally launched on iOS, Android and the web – where McDermott said NBCU assumed most viewing would come from. However it soon added operator partnerships with Virgin in the UK and Foxtel in Australia and the service has seen strong big-screen uptake.

“We’re seeing exceptionally high session times on our apps – in particular on one of our apps, which is on the TiVo platform, of over 100 minutes [per] average session,” said McDermott.

“When you think that a lot of these episodes are 22 minutes or 44 minutes, that means, on average, people are watching multiple episodes per session. That really is starting to prove the use-case of bingeing.”

McDermott said that the Hayu Fire TV app and the forthcoming Apple TV app were effectively built “off the back of the viewership that we were seeing in the TiVo app” to give viewers more big-screen options.

Discussing viewing habits more generally, he said that Hayu is seeing the emergence of a “new primetime” on weekdays from 9am to 11am” – essentially in step with when new episodes come on to the service.

“We bring this content within hours of broadcast and that equates to a 7am-8am drop for the files if they were airing at 9pm in the US. So 9am is basically when content will be dropping into our site and we’re seeing a very clear emergence of a primetime at that time.”

Asked whether Hayu would roll out to other international markets, McDermott said that NBCU was “constantly evaluating potential territories” but would not commit to anything outside of its existing English-speaking market footprint.

“Depending on the market and depending on peoples’ ability to speak and understand English, localisation can play an important factor,” said McDermott.

“There are markets where dubbing and subtitling are important. That puts a bit of a barrier in place with respect to day-and-date content. Trying to ingest that content, transcode it, apply DRM to it, takes a lot of time to begin with. But adding another hurdle in there of subtitling can become challenging.”

NBCU launched Hayu in March in the UK, Ireland and Australia priced at £3.99 per month in the UK, €4.99 in Ireland and A$5.99 in Australia. It offers a catalogue of some 4,000 episodes of reality television – including shows like Keeping Up with The Kardashians, Made in Chelsea, The Real Housewives – and is adding some 700 to 750 new episodes per-year.