With over 15,000 titles available on its North American service, Tubi will launch in Australia on September 1 with an initial offering of almost 7,000 titles, including 3:10 to Yuma, The Blair Witch Project and Stranger Than Fiction, with Dirty Dancing, The Grudge, Requiem for a Dream, Reservoir Dogs, Saw, Traffic and Young Guns becoming available in the next 6 months.
We spoke exclusively with Tubi CEO Farhad Massoudi.
You’re a tech entrepreneur based in San Francisco, can you speak to what is the thinking behind Tubi?
I characterise Tubi as a technology company that happens to focus in the media space. We have a very unique approach to the video on demand world compared to anybody else. If you look at the video on demand world, most services launch with a few original content titles and then they basically bundle the service around a few titles that they have offered to consumers. We took a very different approach and that’s what led to where Tubi is today. We decided to add a master library of content. In the U.S. our library is more than 15,000 titles and we built a personalisation engine using machine learning.
Unlike other services where they have a very small library of mostly originals, we learned quickly from each user what they’re interested in and then reprogram our service for them every day. That’s been incredibly powerful because it turns out I may be interested in British comedy and you may be interested in documentary or art movies or many other titles. We’ve been very successful with that in the U.S. and now Australia will be our first country out of North America that we’re launching, so we’re really excited about it.
So it’s not just about offering a well of content, it’s about personalizing it?
Exactly. Using data that we get from users, we use it to personalise the content library. Then secondarily we are entering the markets with a limited library but we’re now going to grow it as we get feedback from our customers and then in a few, future months we’re going to grow the library as we have done in the U.S. We’re going to learn what works, what type of titles people love. We’re going to try to unlock more and more amazing TV shows and movies in the Australian market. And there’s absolutely no cost to the user.
Can you tell us about the way that the ads work with the content?
So this is another one of those strategic decisions we made – we have about four minutes of commercial break an hour. Which is dramatically less than any linear TV. The idea is that we make sure the user experience isn’t interrupted because of a few commercials. It’s minimal ads, and all the ad loads are selected by humans and we try to do it in the least annoying fashion possible.
What sort of staff base do you need in order to make this work?
We have doubled our team in the past year. We have about 180 employees in the company now and growing. We’re growing very quickly. We have offices anywhere from San Francisco and New York, LA, Chicago to Beijing. Then we have folks that travel around the globe and help us launch in new territories.
People often complain about the lack of depth of streaming service libraries, so was this a conscious decision with what your service offers?
That’s exactly right. Because these services, they need to justify themselves on your bill at the end of the month. They need to spend most of their budget on a handful of ‘Originals’. That means that they can’t have a deep catalogue, and we’re doing the opposite.
A lot of the titles we get are not in the first window [of release] and we’re totally comfortable with that. We see a lot of value in bringing that content to the market because the first window on ‘Originals’ will be accessible to consumers on subscription services. So, if you really want the latest season of Game of Thrones, then you will subscribe to HBO and get the show. But older movies and TV shows, that’s where Tubi comes into play, which is why we’re such a compliment to subscription services.
We work with global media companies, over 200, some of which are actually based in Australia. We bring their content to the United States and we want to do the same thing in Australia. We think we can connect the world with premium content TV shows and films, and help Americans learn about Australian culture and amazing movies there and vice versa.
The windows of release is all a bit of a melting pot now anyway, with the way that content is discovered.
The way I see it is, Gladiator and Pulp Fiction, which are two of my personal favorite movies, are far better than most ‘Originals’, and most of the movies produced today. So what’s wrong with making that available to consumers, and if there is demand and people want to watch them, why not? And so, and that’s really what Tubi is about.
One of the big issues at the moment in Australia is that there is a push towards quotas of local content for streaming services. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Obviously we would love to get local Australian content. We certainly will be getting more Australia content and making it available to the Australian market. That is our business and we want to take Australian content and make it available to the rest of the globe. So directionally we’re very on board.
I think some of the challenge with these laws is that it makes it more difficult for newer, smaller players to enter. So someone like Netflix, they have the budget, they can do it. But if you make it too limiting, it may make it less worthwhile to a smaller player to enter.
And not having competition is certainly not good for the Australian market. So I think that is a two edged sword that you just want to be mindful of. But in our case, we are a huge fan of getting local content and distributing it globally.