‘There is a world of content that goes beyond film, music, dance and memes’

K Giriprakash Bengaluru | Updated on October 06, 2020

Jason Holland, President, Global Business for FireworkTV, shares the company’s plans for India

Firework, in its listing on the Google app store, says it helps the viewer “escape from the ordinary” with curated videos that are personalised to each one’s unique lifestyle. But Firework is in the news more because of the reported move by Google to acquire the California-based company, a move seen as countering the rise of TikTok which is an acquisition target by others as well. In an e-mail interview with BusinessLine, Jason Holland, President, Global Business for FireworkTV, shares the company’s plans for India and how the market here has been growing at a fast clip.

Most short video apps are witnessing poor retention numbers and so is the case with most app platforms — not only in India, but globally. So, how do you see your platform beating the churn with your operations?.

Firework is an AI technology and video-first assets based business. The suite allows users to consume the content they crave, on news and websites they frequently visit and not necessarily on the Firework app. Firework’s success is not defined by the number of our app downloads but by the engagement that we derive on the open web.

It has been almost a year since your launch. How have you been able to monetise your India foray? How have your revenues grown?

Firework loves innovations. We use that technology, engineering, operational, and connected business horsepower to our advantage. The team in India drives thought leadership and execution better than any of our regional teams around the world. Monetisation has been a key strategic pillar for the business, both internally and by way of publisher enablement. We also diversified the execution parameters available to publishers on their sites and within their Open Story Pages. The Open Story Page (OSP) is where the majority of publishers short-form video content lives. These are the premium placements and executions a publisher’s internal ad sales team brings to agencies and marketers. In USD, we saw those gross CPMs as high as $24 for high quality, 100 per cent brand-safe pre-roll. We have begun working with marketers directly to create a custom short-form video content packages which can syndicate across the publishers’ entire video content well. There are e-commerce components and partnerships we are in the final stages of executing which will be 10 times revenue drivers as well.

You are currently operating in various parts of the world. How successful has your India journey been in comparison and what kind of challenges do you foresee?

India has been an exciting market. The volume of users has allowed us to innovate and launch product variations in India first and then take it to the rest of the world. We have grown at a blistering pace in terms of users and businesses that use Firework. The challenge in India is the diversity of ideas and languages. We are working hard to bring the India that goes beyond the big metropolis into Firework through high-quality storytelling.

The banning of TikTok app in India has given a great opportunity to homegrown platforms. Do you see them as a challenge?

The more the focus on video and its relevance the better. There is no global business entity doing what Firework is with respect to proliferating short-form video across the open web, leveraging high-quality brand-safe video content from creators, and gives marketers the opportunity to allocate budget at scale mirroring spends with YouTube, Snap, Amazon etc. We have been a large beneficiary of TikTok creators looking for an upgraded new home where they can make a living by having content syndicated across the entire web. The challenge for us has been many Tik Tok creators expressing an interest in Firework are user-generated content. That is not our business. So we have had to be rather selective in those we admit. Our focus is on Occupationally Generated Content (OGC) —creators whose passion for making video spans hobby and becomes their full-time role.

Various Tik Tok look-alikes have now flooded the market. In a country where most of the internet traffic originates from rural regions —such options might be very relevant. How are you building your audience?

We believe that there is a world of content that goes beyond the idea of using film, music, dance and memes. Good storytelling is universal. Our audience is aspirational and has an appetite for the diversity of content that our stakeholders bring to the platform. Overnight success does not happen, it takes slow and painstaking work to understand, adapt and grow. Launching a service is only 1 per cent of the work. It is a myth that rural markets do not have people who consume and create good content. Mumbai as metro has pockets with a rural mindset.

Tik Tok had created a certain hype about short video platforms with their approach towards creators. How difficult is it to live up to such popularity and expectations?

We are so different than TikTok with respect to our business model living across the open web, video value we bring to traditional publishers, and our penchant for only engaging the best in short-form content creation, Firework has and will continue to set standards for best practices and expectation in the future.

Published on October 06, 2020

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