Data - as well as a creative gut - is vital for winning online audiences, says Little Dot CEO Andy Taylor.
It’s not surprising that the growth of Little Dot Studios mirrors the surge in video consumption around the world.
Established just over four years ago, the company was set up by UK-based TV and film production and distribution giant All3Media to help broadcasters grow their audiences and communities on social platforms.
“If you go back to 2013, the main focus was on deals with the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to make money through the licensing of content,” says Little Dot co-founder and Chief Executive Andy Taylor.
“But YouTube was much harder; [broadcasters] needed to hire people and build their own audience. And even if they succeeded they didn’t make much money, so very few did anything.
”Broadcasters are more innovative than they are given credit for” - Andy Taylor
“I had a view that even if the money was modest compared to deals with firms like Netflix, broadcasters would have to embrace YouTube and Facebook because they need to engage with younger audiences and their ability to market shows declining, so they needed to go on to new platforms.”
According to Ericsson, the amount of video being consumed over mobile networks around the world rose from just under 1,000 petabytes per month in 2013 to 7,500 petabytes per month this year.
Little Dot’s clients range from FremantleMedia to the England and Wales Cricket Board, and it has created content such as the ‘Leap of Faith’ stunt (see image) for Formula E and Channel 4’s short form series Drones in Forbidden Zones.
It now counts 2.5billion views per month of its content on YouTube.
And having launched with four staff members, it now employs some 100 people, 60 of whom are editors and graphic designers making clips for the programmes such as chat show The Graham Norton Show or compilations of the best moments of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.
Taylor explains that each video is tailored to the platform on which it is published.
“For Facebook we use a lot of graphics, and the cut would be different on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.”
Taylor refers to the growth in mobile video consumption as an “explosion”, with broadcasters “leaping” into the commissioning of short form content for their on-demand platforms.
And while some may consider short form a testing ground for ideas that could be turned into long form series for linear broadcast, the likes of Channel 4 treat it as standalone content to generate views and therefore more interest from advertisers for their online platforms.
Andy Taylor on YouTubers moving into TV
“We are not a traditional multichannel network (MCN) that represent YouTubers, but when we do produce content we will often look at new emerging talent.
“Lots are doing very nicely on YouTube, and while some may want to [move on to TV] they might not have the talent. TV requires a different level of expertise; speaking to a camera in a bedroom is very different to having a full crew around.”
So can broadcasters learn anything from the online upstarts?
“While TV feels competitive, it has limited bandwidth; there are still only hundreds of channels whereas online there are millions of YouTube and Facebook pages, so the great online publishers are just incredibly agile and very data driven.
“Unless they spend significant time worrying about how a video will be seen no one will see it, no matter how good it is. That makes all of us in this space incredibly data driven, and the great online innovators have combined skills that blend data audience understanding with creative gut instinct.”
Little Dot’s approach is to produce video around a genre whilst always keeping in mind why a site like the Huffington Post would chose to embed a particular video. Other factors include making sure they use terms that are highly searched for while also creating something that will keep a viewer watching beyond the first few seconds.
And for every video it uploads, it can harvest an “extraordinary” amount of data.
“Broadcasters are more innovative than that are given credit for, but they don’t have that level of data.
“Broadcasters are finding it increasingly hard to keep hold of younger viewers. We search out new movements and genres and find out what younger audiences going to latch on to. That is hard for broadcasters who predominantly serve older audience and could be at risk of cannibalising their core audience.”
Included in Little Dot’s headcount of 100 are six full time data analysts who sit next to Taylor.
“They don’t just look at the data, they also look at what Facebook and YouTube’s algorithm is doing.
“These algorithms are living, breathing things that need to be monitored because if [online platforms] start to favour a particular type or length of content then we need to change the kind of video we make…broadcasters have tried YouTube in-house but they are usually uploading in a vacuum.
”We can grow on these platforms because we can upload videos that we know will become visible.”