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Maker Studios exec shrugs off barb about YouTube star audience decline after they join multi-channel network

Rene Rechtman talks at the Asia TV Forum in Singapore

Rene Rechtman talks at the Asia TV Forum in Singapore

The international head of Disney’s online content machine Maker Studios shrugged off a question at a conference this morning that suggested that YouTube stars’ audiences tend to fall after they join a multi-channel network.

After his presentation at the Asian TV Forum in Singapore, René Rechtman, head, international, Maker Studios, was first asked by a delegate from India how the company managed talent of variable degrees of success.

Rechtman responded by explaining how Maker grooms the talent brought into its network. “When we see [in an artist] that they have the ability to attract and engage an audience we elevate them to the next level and put them into our network and invest in them,” he said.

The same delegate then asked about the phenomenon of artists’ audiences dwindling after they sign up with MNCs, because talent managers and brands have interfered with their work. Rechtman responded by pointing to Maker Studios’ total audience and how quickly it was growing globally. Maker Studios’ talent base of YouTube stars now generates 40 billion views, he said: “The total numbers are growing big time.”

Rechtman's slide on audience growth in Southeast Asia

Rechtman’s slide on audience growth in Southeast Asia

Rechtman’s presentation was focused on numbers and the opportunity for brands to reach young audiences in Asia – where he noted that 50 per cent of the population are millennials – through multi-channel networks.

But he stressed the challenge of keeping up with the changing tastes of millennials and YouTube talent. “Let’s not fool ourselves. It’s not about coding, editing and showing anymore. That’s not what is happening. New categories are born every month that we need to try to tap into. We are not setting agenda, it’s youth,” he said.

The challenge for brands and content creators was to figure out what sort of content works on which platform, Rechtman noted, referring to a study that found that millennials spend 30 per cent of their media time watching videos, 98 per cent of which are watched on mobile devices.

“I’ve never seen anything grow so fast as the growth of online video. Now the fight is on for audience among global and regional platforms is exploding. For content creators for ourselves, it’s a great opportunity,” he said.

The length of content people are watching is shortening, Rechtman added. “Content is getting shorter and shorter. Even on Netflix the average watched content is under 10 minutes long, which is surprising when you look at their library of content,” he said.

He also pointed to data that showed a shortage of interest in traditional advertising among millennials – 84 per cent of this group does not trust traditional advertising, he said.

On Maker’s strategy for Asia, Rechtman noted that the company invests heavily in local talent and content, monetises it, and then works on how to take the talent global. “Everything we do is based on data,” he said.

Maker Studios launched a Southeast Asia operation in Singapore last year, led by former FremantleMedia business develoment head Gautam Talwar, soon after the Los Angeles-based company was acquired by Disney for $500 million.

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