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The new aggregators: Ellation’s Arlen Marmel on the VRV approach (part 2)

Ellation's VRV

Finding an audience and serving them with the quality of experience they expect is one of the greatest challenges in online video delivery today. VRV’s unique approach aims to address the challenge for any SVOD service targeting the fandom community.

Arlen Marmel Ellation

Arlen Marmel – Ellation

In this second part of my interview with Arlen Marmel, VP of Marketing and Distribution at Ellation, he explains: why Ellation decided to introduce a new platform for fandom, what he looks for in an SVOD partner, the importance of service experience, and why he loves cancelled customers. What emerges is a picture of a new approach to building and growing an online video service business. One rooted in community, from both an audience and content partner perspective.

nScreenMedia: Why introduce a new platform rather than expand Crunchyroll’s responsibilities?

Mr. Marmel: “We made a very conscious choice with VRV. We said ‘what is our expertise?’ Product and engineering, and marketing and distribution. Marketing and distribution specifically as it relates to customer acquisition and growth science. That is fundamentally what we as a company do well. We went to a bunch of companies that understood brand and content and creation and having a voice and who their community is. And we said let’s partner up. You bring great programming, great content, and an audience to the table and we will commit to giving you the tools to build your business.”

nScreenMedia: What do you look for in a partner service?

Mr. Marmel: “The key <partner> attributes for us are: premium, super-high affinity, and partner commitment to SVOD. And then you layer on what we call the fandom ring, the set of genres that fit within fandom. Where those two roads meet, we have amazing partnerships.”

nScreenMedia: Crunchyroll is a global product. Will VRV also go global?

Mr. Marmel: “We are fortunate too because we have a set of partners that if we want to move globally, they can come with us. If want to move toward offline viewing, no problem. If we want to innovate in different directions, they’re on board. We’re not defined by traditional modality. We can go where the consumer wants us to go. And that’s part of what I believe and hope will really push us forward.”

nScreenMedia: How important is service experience, and how is VRV helping deliver it?

Mr. Marmel: “I think there is a misconception in our business that it is simple to build video apps. People look around and look at a Netflix app and say ‘that doesn’t look that hard.’ So, you get 3000 apps on your Apple TV or Roku, 2,990 of which do not work very well and are not compelling.”

“When we looked at Crunchyroll, we realized that you have to make some really serious investments to meet consumer expectations and capture consumer demand on a global basis, for a single slice of audience. It would make a lot more sense to build this at the platform level and spread it across a bunch of different partners. They <partners> likely are not going to be able to build an experience commensurate with consumer expectations. Because they <consumers> will judge the app by the likes of Amazon or Netflix, and they won’t rationalize that the app works less well than theirs <Netflix, Amazon etc.> simply because it is not from them. Netflix set the bar, and it’s a very hard bar to reach, but you have to be close if you’re going to be a premium video experience.”

nScreenMedia: How do you deal with the constant threat that a subscriber may leave you?

Mr. Marmel: “Basically, the monthly subscription business puts the onus on you as the provider to create an experience that is commensurate with expectations such that every single month the consumer decides that he or she wants to pay you. I love that bar. You have to make a product and content proposition that is super compelling and you also have to have an honest and truthful relationship with your customers every month.”

 nScreenMedia: Does your relationship with the customer end when they cancel?

Mr. Marmel: “When you think about these cancelled customers, I love them. Because the best thing you can have from a customer acquisition perspective is demonstrated intent. They have already paid us. They’re highly qualified to be a premium customer, but for whatever reason we haven’t delivered.”

“In theory, the cancelled customers of all our partners are the best customers for VRV. If we can reacquire a bunch of our partners’ cancelled customers and put them in VRV, everyone is better off. They’ll <partners> have all of the customers they already have and a bunch of the ones they’ve lost so far.”

In part 1 of the interview with Arlen Marmel, he explains how VRV differs from mainstream SVOD services, how the app fits into the lives of its audience, and how he never wants to turn away a potential customer.

Why it matters

It is difficult for consumers to find and manage all the SVOD services that might interest them.

The greatest challenge for SVOD services is being found by potential customers.

A pure platform approach can solve the problem for both the consumer and the content provider, particularly when it targets a sharply defined affinity group.

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