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Fullscreen launches YouTube Red rival

BBC News BBC News 25/04/2016 By Chris Foxx

Online talent firm Fullscreen has launched its own subscription video platform to rival YouTube's offering.

Until now, Fullscreen has worked with social media talent on free platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.

But the company said the economics of producing premium video on ad-supported platforms "did not work out".

One industry analyst questioned whether Fullscreen had the brand recognition necessary to attract a big audience.

Fullscreen describes itself as a "modern media company", part talent agency, part content producer. It has a roster of 75,000 "partners", predominantly recruited through YouTube.

The company has traditionally made money by brokering advertising deals for its talent, providing support to smaller video-makers in exchange for a cut of their ad revenue, and by selling tour tickets and merchandise for its biggest stars.

But it said it had needed to create its own subscription video platform to let video-makers "fulfil their artistic ambition".

"Social media is a great place to make quick, inexpensive content to engage a fanbase," Fullscreen founder George Strompolos told the BBC.

"But when it comes to longer form or premium productions, the economics of producing it on the free web just don't work out.

"We needed to create a premium destination for that work that has a higher quality."

Consumers are increasingly rejecting expensive cable television packages and instead subscribing to individual streaming services, known as over-the-top services.

In October 2015, Google launched its own bid to capture a new market with a premium video service called YouTube Red.

Its service features prominent YouTubers in long-form productions, although Google has not yet revealed how many paid members it has attracted.

"There is some overlap with YouTube Red, they are both subscription options featuring some programming with YouTube stars," said Mr Strompolos.

"But YouTube Red is more about an ad-free experience and music, with some programming sprinkled in. We're leading with original programmes. It's not icing on cake, it is the cake."

Undercutting Google's $9.99 (£6.90) offering, Fullscreen's subscription service will cost $4.99 (£3.40) a month, with programmes viewable on a standalone app and website.

British comedians Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs, and US vlogger Shane Dawson are among the popular video-makers involved.

The company said it would bolster its offer of online originals with traditional programmes from TV and film studios.

Empowering talent

"Fullscreen has an umbrella of big name channels on YouTube, but the brand itself is not particularly well known," said Tom Harrington, an industry analyst at Enders.

"They have some decent looking original programming planned, but these services live and die on their back catalogue, and old episodes of Dawson's Creek will only get you so far.

"It's an increasingly crowded market, and it's hard to think they would have the same recognition to get noticed as Amazon, Disney and Netflix."

Mr Strompolos is confident the service will find an audience.

"This generation grew up on social media, falling in love with stars like Grace Helbig, and Jack and Dean," said Mr Strompolos.

"Part of being a fan of a creator is that you are empowering them to reach new heights - you get them to a place where they can realise their ambitions.

"But we also think about empowering talent, giving them a great experience and creating a friendly collaboration.

"Ultimately, the service that the talent wants to win, is the service that wins."

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