There is strong demand for our content in India: NBCUniversal's Hendrik McDermott

There is strong demand for our content in India: NBCUniversal's Hendrik McDermott

The executive speaks to about hayu’s strategic expansion & approach to India.

Hendrik McDermott

OTT streaming service hayu was launched in 2016 in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia targeting major English-speaking markets to advance the unscripted reality genre. The content on the service was provided by NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading unscripted production companies, that adds 2000 hours of unscripted content every year primarily through their flagship pay TV brands in the United States - Bravo, E!, and Oxygen.

Today, hayu platform boasts 10,000 hours of content all focused on reality TV. While the content library swells predictably each year, the platform’s strategy is focused on bringing that content to more English speakers across the globe. It does this in three ways, launching in new English-speaking markets, increasing its distribution reach, and onboarding platform partners.

In 2017, hayu launched in the Nordic region (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark) and then into the rest of Europe. The service was launched in Canada and Benelux in 2018. The expansion continued to Southeast Asia including the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, and finally India in December 2021.

Leading hayu’s charge across the globe is NBCUniversal managing director of direct-to-consumer global Hendrik McDermott, who’s been at the media and entertainment company for over 16 years. Based in London, McDermott is responsible for the territorial expansion and P&L including subscriber acquisition, retention, customer lifetime value, and revenue growth. The platform hayu has completed six years since its launch and is currently present in 29 countries.

In an exclusive conversation with, McDermott shares his focused strategy for hayu’s international expansion and approach to the Indian market.

Edited Excerpts:

On the launch in India three months ago

Our research showed that there’s a huge appetite for reality TV in this country. As we look at our addressable base (English-speaking audiences), 33 per cent of that base are huge fans of reality TV in some shape or form. Out of that group of people, three-quarters are very interested in subscribing to a US content service. That’s a very high percentage in our addressable base. So, there is a strong demand for the content that we have in this market.

On monetising unscripted content via subscriptions

We view our platform as a premium service. Our research shows that people are happy to pay for content and they don’t want advertising on the service. Our platform is an ad-free service and we do not have advertising on our platform in any of our other markets so it’s something that we’ve stayed true to in India. That’s the area (subscription) we hope to grow for now.

On distribution strategy and partnering with Prime Video Channels

Partnerships are a hallmark of our strategy and we’re very active in partnership discussions. We are partnered with every kind of platform you can imagine including cable platforms, satellite platforms, OTT platforms, and telcos. In every market that we’re present, we have at least one platform partner. We launched with Prime Video Channels here in February but we have a longstanding partnership with Amazon in other markets as well.

The types of integrations that we do differ from market to market. For example, in Canada, which is a cable TV-led market, we partnered with all the cable TV operators and built a bespoke app that sits on their set-top-box. The Nordic markets are much more SVOD-led and so we’ve done integrations with the other SVOD platforms. We’re open to all kinds of different partnership conversations. We are partners with almost every App Store and Smart TV across Apple, Google, Roku, etc.

In India, I can’t speak about specific partners but we are in active conversations for further distribution. The deal with Amazon is a structure where the partner platform ingests our content and we’re open to that. We’re looking to bundle with different smart TV and telco operators as well.

On a localisation strategy for India

We are an English language service. The content itself is very topical and when our new shows come out it is written about in the newspapers. We prioritise the speed at which the content comes to our platform and therefore our shows air in India on the same day as the US within two hours of broadcast transmission.

In India, we’re subtitling some of our content knowing that there is a desire to watch content in local languages. About 4000 hours of content has been subtitled to Hindi.

On beating the competition in the unscripted content space

We bring our US-based shows that feature some of the most popular and famous people in the world. These are franchises like "The Real Housewives" and "The Kardashians." These are premium franchises targeting a specific demographic. We’re not a general entertainment service so we’re not going to try and address the entire market. Our target audience is young, female, and English-savvy.

Obviously, we’ll sell our service to anyone but we do tend to skew more females than males with 90 per cent of our user base outside of India being female. We also understand that this is a mobile-led market but we’re trying to keep our platform available to as broad a selection of people as possible. So, we're present on all devices.

On growing the platform in India

The performance metric that we’ve been looking at is our viewing engagement i.e., how much content is being viewed by people on our platform. I think that’s important at the launch phase because we’re brand new to the market. Our benchmark in terms of average viewing per person per month varies between 16-20 hours of content. That is broadly speaking the performance of our content in other markets. We’re pleased to note that in India the average at the moment is 17 hours per person per month which is within our target performance.  

On marketing the service in India

Marketing in India is no different from other markets. When we launch our service, we were very active in building brand awareness since the brand is new to the market. This includes pay TV advertising and out-of-home advertising that we’ve been active in starting from December. Then we’ll shift our tactics towards digital because globally we’ve seen it is much more common to get people to subscribe to services via digital. You will see our presence on social media channels, influencers, podcasts, and everything else. Once we’ve invested in building our brand, we can shift our tactics to drive subscriptions via digital.

On making the customer onboarding journey as frictionless as possible

Our service is accessible via numerous touchpoints. We have a whole suite of apps, 13 different apps, and have made it seamless for people to connect with the platform in any way they want. The simplest is the web where there is a basic sign-up flow. In this market, we offer two subscription packages i.e., a three-month package and a 12-month package. Adding more payment options is in our product roadmap for the coming months. Payment modes like Paytm will be enabled over the course of the year.

On driving viewership via connected TVs versus mobile devices

Even in markets where we’ve had integrations with cable TV platforms, the primary viewing of our content genre is happening on the small screens. This includes mobiles and tablets but also to a certain extent laptop computers. While there is some variation from market to market, this is consistent across the board. In India, we found that about 50 per cent of the viewing is happening on the mobile phone. It also skews towards Android devices over iOS devices. Mobile viewing in this market is broadly speaking higher than we’d see in other markets.

On hayu’s upcoming content slate

We recently launched a new franchise called “Below Deck Down Under” that’s exclusively on hayu platform. In May, we have a big premiere when the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" returns to the platform with season 12. On an annual basis, we add about 2000 hours of content and on any given day four to ten new episodes are coming in from our partners in the US.