Ellation’s SVOD service VRV quietly rolled out about a month ago. General Manager Mike Aragon, former vp and gm of global digital video for Sony Playstation, has been keeping us up-to-date on VRV’s progress. We chatted with him again to get a better sense of the Otter Media funded venture’s direction now that it’s officially out of the box.
When we last spoke, you hadn’t announced the price point. Now we have your Combo Pack available for $9.99 for 8 channels, including Nerdist, Crunchyroll and MONDO. How did you settle on that price?
The pricing strategy was set to deliver the most value for our audience while ensuring we can maintain a library of premium content that rivals any of the larger SVOD services available in the market. Just as important, we wanted to assure that we set the price at a point where we can run a profitable business that will enable us to add more partner channels that appeal to our specific audience. Furthermore, we wanted to provide our audience with multiple options that fit their needs and budget, so we decided to offer the Combo Pack–but, all the channels can also be purchased a la carte. SVOD is all about scale, and right now, we’re focusing on offering members of the fandom the most optimal experience.
How did you decide on the channels in your initials offering? Will there be more coming and are there particular genres you’d like to add?
The channels on VRV have been carefully curated to reach fans who are interested in adjacent genres. From our community, we found that people who watch anime are also into gaming, animation, tech, comedy and horror; there’s a common passion and thread that ties these audiences together. While we believe VRV currently has a very strong offering of channels, we are planning to continue to add new channels that appeal to our audience.
It doesn’t look like you were able to offer a discount on any of the premium channels, like Seeso and Shudder. Is that negotiable at all?
It is up to the individual channel partners to set their own terms on pricing within VRV and determine how they want their product priced. But I do want to stress that all of our channels have premium content that the fandom loves. Seeso and Shudder are both great channels and are a perfect fit for the VRV audience, so we are excited and honored that they are a part of our platform. Our ultimate goal is to create the best destination possible for our audience. We are always working on ways to add more value and will continue to experiment.
Who is the core VRV user?
VRV caters to fans who love anime, animation, gaming, fantasy and horror and provides an immersive and comprehensive experience with the types of content they’re passionate about. We know the fandom includes a wide range of interests, so we built VRV to offer fans a broad and new viewing experience. With content spanning multiple genres, VRV will serve as a discovery tool for viewers to explore premium content and connect with series that they wouldn’t have encountered without our platform, which will ultimately drive them deeper into the fandom.
You’ve spent years at Sony. How does that influence trickle down to VRV?
Working at Sony gave me a front row seat into how this younger and digitally savvy audience is consuming content. I always sat back in amazement when I’d look at our app usage reports and see that Crunchyroll was among the most popular apps on PlayStation Network–and, many time outperforming other major apps with far more funding and broader market awareness. At Sony, I learned early on how niche but passionate audiences were popping up, and the PSN was a great petri dish to watch this happening close up.
How active are the folks at Otter Media in the venture? Is AT&T doing anything special to promote VRV’s content?
They’re definitely involved in what we do. We’re an important part of the Otter portfolio, and they bring a ton of relevant experience, connections and perspective to our team that is invaluable.
As for AT&T, they’ve obviously been quite busy with the launch of their new DirectTV Now service. And, they’ve done some great promotions and integration with Fullscreen’s SVOD service. While I don’t have anything to announce today, you can see that the AT&T/DirectTV team is clearly looking to their Otter Media investments to help differentiate what they’re doing with their core products today.
It’s obviously beginning days, but are there any early insights you can share based on the launch?
VRV has been live for about a month now, and we’re really pleased with how things are going so far. Our Combo Pack, which is our bundling of channels, has seen great traction among fans, but we have also noticed people sign up a la carte as well. Fans are sharing incredible feedback across social media and have been especially enthusiastic about our exclusive content, such as Frederator’s premium Cartoon Hangover offering and “MONDO Premium.” In fact, we just started streaming new episodes of a popular Cartoon Hangover show, Bee and Puppycat, and VRV users were ecstatic, which is just one example of how we superserve the fandom.
While VRV is currently available on Android, iOS, PlayStation and Xbox, we have heard fans ask about other devices and are looking to add more devices in the next couple of months. We also will be rolling out an account linking feature soon. Stay tuned for more details!
How did you settle on the name VRV. Is it pronounced verve? What does it mean?
That’s right “Verve”–as in “vigor”, “enthusiasm” and “spirit,” which are characteristics you’d see in the audience we are trying to superserve. Hard not to think of a more VRV-like audience than gaming, animation, anime, tech and sci-fi enthusiasts.