It’s been a frequent occurrence that we report on the niche MVPD’s and SVOD streaming services shutting down. Anime and nerd culture-focused VRV isn’t one of them. On the contrary, the niche streaming service launched by AT&T’s investment arm Otter Media has seen growth metrics that VRV’s General Manager Arlen Marmel calls “really strong signals” that the brand is on track to succeed only one year into the business.
Since launching with content partners Crunchyroll, Nerdist, Geek&Sundry and RoosterTeeth with a freemium model priced at $9.99/month for an ad-free bundle, the platform has accumulated 1.5 million registered users and roughly 1 million monthly uniques.
Those numbers seem mild compared to the oft-empty mega numbers that most video companies manufacture to appear successful.
Marmel points to the user engagement and time spent on VRV (3 hours per week on average) as an important draw for channels which have seen lower engagement on their own independent services than on VRV. And because the platform enables users to sign up for channels outside of its bundle at the partner’s own price point, the service becomes not only a source of revenue but an important lead gen pipeline for standalone brands as well.
But, Marmel admits “part of the long term requirement is meaningful scale” to enticing bigger legacy brands like WWE, and that VRV is not “where [the brand] ultimately want[s] to be, right now.”
So while “the bundled thesis is beginning to prove out”, according to Marmel, VRV still has a long road ahead.
“If you’re building this MVPD model, you’re going to have variable per-sub fees and offer [partners] a large and growing subscriber base. That’s what it’s going to take to keep this niche ecosystem sustainable,” he says. To do that, VRV is going to continue programming via its partners and its own premium content on its house channel VRV-Select where its currently streaming its first original “Harmon Quest”. VRV is also planning to expand into edutainment, first with its newest channel CuriosityStream, and soon with other established brands from YouTube in the category.
“There’s enough strong signals…but we still have work to do on the bundle mix,” said Marmel. “There are other categories that I think we need to build to to accomplish this. Our vision is broader and we’ll start to demonstrate that, before the end of the year.”
And the obvious growth hacking bits will continue as well — traditional marketing, partnering with its channels to create exclusive content, strategic marketing and content partnerships with influencers and like-minded publishers like Twitch, Gamestop and Playstation and incentivizing its partners to cross-promote their offerings on VRV.
“The world doesn’t need an infinite number of brands, especially in an OTT world,” but if Marmel has his way, VRV’s “potential” will become sustainable long enough for it to redefine the virtual MVPD model. “This has to be a dual revenue system to be successful.”