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VidCon 2016: DEFY Media looks beyond YouTube, free content


DEFY Media doesn’t want to be labeled a multi-channel network (MCN). While the company has built a tremendous fan base across its YouTube channels over the years, it is the owner and operator of its content, producing 72 shows a week.

With properties like AweMe, Break, Clevver, Made Man, SMOSH, and Screen Junkies, DEFY generates over 800 million views and reaches over 125 million consumers monthly not only through its YouTube channels, but also through owned properties on the web, mobile, social, and OTT platforms.

DEFY’s growth and reach have resulted in investments from Lionsgate and Viacom, two companies seeking additional vehicles to speak to younger audiences.

Now, DEFY is betting that its most loyal fans will be willing to pay for exclusive premium content from ScreenJunkies, one of its most popular networks. The company recently launched a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service, ScreenJunkies Plus, that it hopes will prove out the ability to move beyond free, ad-supported content.

All of the above will be hot topics this week in Anaheim at VidCon, where Found Remote is on the ground. For more on DEFY’s VidCon plans, its growth, and the launch of ScreenJunkies Plus, we caught up with the company’s CMO, Andy Tu:

Found Remote: What is DEFY seeking to accomplish this year at VidCon?

Andy Tu: Vidcon has become an important event for many aspects of the business. For creators and content, it is a place where we discuss new initiatives in front of our most active fan bases and the industry. For advertisers it has become a place where they come to engage and better understand what’s happening in the influencer and creator space. Lastly, for the online video industry at large it’s become a place where we set the stage for what’s coming ahead for the space at large. This year DEFY will be announcing new content initiatives, creating content from Vidcon, and we’ll be working with brands on-site to activate exciting programs that will engage directly with the incredible fans communities around our properties.

FR: How is DEFY different than a multi-channel network (MCN)?

Tu: DEFY is a media company - we build big media brands by creating compelling content that is distributed to millions of viewers every month across our own properties as well as the leading video platforms in the world like YouTube and Facebook. The key differentiator between DEFY and a traditional MCN model is that we own and operate the brands we build and the content we create. We are committed to original and regularly scheduled programming. We have 72 shows in regular weekly production for the most part created within DEFY Studios in LA.

FR: Fans are used to getting ScreenJunkies content for free - and they have lots of decisions to make when deciding what to pay for. Why are you confident that they will pay for ScreenJunkies Plus?

Tu: One of the big reasons that we’re confident is because they already are paying and enjoying our content. We have 20 original programs on the service, with more to come. Beyond that, we’re optimistic because movies and TV are consistently one of the most talked about topics across social media and programs like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have helped transform a geek culture that used to be niche into something talked about at every water cooler and in every newsfeed on a daily basis. ScreenJunkies has become the hub for that conversation and we’re serving a huge community with our content. We bring them great shows from the ScreenJunkies team and additional programs we create in partnership with some of the biggest voices in movies and TV, including Kevin Smith, Chris Stuckman, Jeremy Jahns and How It Should Have Ended.

FR: You have built out pretty robust owned properties, and with Screen Junkies Plus, a SVOD service. Why, then, is YouTube still so important to what you're trying to do?

Tu: YouTube is the largest video platform in the world and 10 years in is synonymous with online video. It is where we’ve built the biggest audience for our brands and original content, with more than 65 million subscribers across our channels, and continues to be the best place to market and grow those brands. Even as we invest in and grow our content and audience on other platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and go90, we remain very committed to creating content for our huge audience on YouTube. You look at the recent success of a video like our "Honest Trailer" for Deadpool with Ryan Reynolds: We have over 13 million views on YouTube and another 5 million on Facebook, but the video that was picked up across social networks and media publications all over the internet was from YouTube. For now it is the standard for viewing and sharing video on the internet.

FR: DEFY is backed in part by Lionsgate and Viacom. How do you leverage the assets of traditional media companies, and what do you offer them?

Tu: Lionsgate and Viacom are strong partners and advocates for DEFY as we navigate growth as a media organization. It’s a great question for Lionsgate and Viacom as to what we offer them but we’d like to think they get to stay close to and learn from a digitally native media company growing brands through original programming.

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