April 7, 2020
Taking Storytelling to New Heights and Platforms
Following today's news on the launch of Topic, a new streaming video service for ‘culture cravers', Ryan Chanatry, General Manager shares his insights on the service, what makes it unique and what he and the team are providing a unique source of entertainment for people at home during what is an extremely challenging time He also shares some great tips for content owners looking to go direct-to-consumer with their own OTT video service.
What is Topic and how does it compete against Netflix and other popular video streaming services?
Topic is a new streaming service that launched in the US and Canada on November 21st. We’re a part of First Look Media’s entertainment division, which also includes Topic Studios. We are a curated selection of drama, comedy, discussion, narrative, documentary, and doc-shorts. We’re available on iOS, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android, and Amazon Prime Channels. A monthly subscription starts at $5.99 and you can save with a yearly for only $59.99.
We are not aiming to “compete” with other mainstream services but instead are looking to appeal to a particular frame of mind among consumers who are looking for a compliment to their typical entertainment options.
Most of the non-major streaming services program to a particular genre niche (horror, British, etc), but our vision is that Topic will appeal to a frame of mind or specific sensibility instead.
Our programming sits at the intersection of entertaining, provocative, meaningful, elevated, and smart, and we see ourselves as a compliment to the major streaming players and definitely not in direct competition.
We feel that there is room in our audience’s lives for a service they want to actively associate themselves with, that reflects their values, and says something specific to them with its programming.
What are your ambitions for the service over the next year or two? Do you intend to extend to new markets?
We have many exciting projects in the works for 2020. We’ve recently premiered French drama Vernon Subtext, Shane Meadow’s incredible drama series, The Virtues (starring Stephen Graham), as well as episodes of our discussion shows Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, What’s Your Ailment?! with Maria Bamford, and coming on April 30th, Soul City, a three-part Topic Original set in New Orleans.
In addition to many more drama and comedy series premieres, we’ll be releasing narrative and documentary films throughout the year, highlighting engaging and critically acclaimed films from around the world, as well as lesser known titles that might not have had a previous presence on streaming services.
Beyond that, we aim to super serve our intended audience by providing them with a curated selection of programming that appeals to their desire to experience stories and creators that aren’t represented significantly within mainstream North American entertainment choices. We also look to provide a distribution option for series and narrative & documentary film that deserves to be seen without having to attend festivals or awards shows.
If there’s a demand for Topic in markets outside the US and Canada, we’re certainly open to exploring that in the future!
How does working with 24i help you meet your mission to push the art of storytelling to new heights?
24i enables us to present Topic consistently across all of the major app platforms in a compelling and simple way. They allow us to focus on our programming and marketing, while knowing that our product experience is in solid hands. Backstage, 24i’s CMS, lets us make adjustments to how titles on Topic are presented in seconds.
Additionally 24i keeps each app up to date and best in class, allowing us to take advantage of new features and bring those quickly to our audience. Their experience working across so many different types of streaming services also benefits the overall product roadmap.
There has been a boom of streaming video services over the past few years and competition is fierce. What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own, direct to consumer service?
Zeroing in on the service’s niche is most critical. Audiences will support and make room in their lives for brands and services that speak to them directly and that they wish to identify with. Finding that audience connection is the key first step. From there, creating relationships with many of the established and emerging providers specializing in the streaming video space, such as 24i, enables you to get up and running at a fraction of the cost of a few years ago, while leveraging their scale and technology. Given the competition, one of the biggest challenges is creating awareness for your service among the intended audience. Experimenting with a variety of marketing and press levers is essential to figuring out how to break through the noise and ensure your programming is seen and understood by those who are most likely to subscribe. Testing and iterating across product, programming, and promotion to optimize your funnel can then kick in.
Since people started having to stay home because of the COVID-19 virus, demand for streaming services has never been so great. How is Topic managing this increased demand and are you doing anything special for your subscribers hungry for good programming?
We are grateful to be able to provide audiences with a unique source of entertainment during what is an extremely challenging time on so many levels. Working closely with our teams on the 24i side, we’ve increased server capacity to handle the additional subscribers and streaming time that we’re seeing. Additionally, we’re excited to imminently announce a limited series comedy special, that will include some extra special guests, taking place over April/May. It’s bound to lighten up people’s spirits. We have also rearranged our overall programming schedule to launch a few of our high-profile and most binge worth dramas and comedies earlier than initially planned.