Hi everyone, I’m back again with more thoughts on why we do what we do with our programming. It’s fun to write these and I’m really enjoying your thoughtful responses, so keep ‘em coming
Today we announced the RWBY Chibi season 2 premiere date (May 13!), and that the series will be FIRST exclusive for 7 days before it becomes free-to-watch on RoosterTeeth.com and YouTube. For those who saw my previous post, this likely comes as no surprise. Chibi has stand-alone episodes, like Million Dollars But…, Sex Swing, and RTAA do, so there’s less concern about spoilers and breaking up a conversation in the community. I was also fascinated to see people respond to my last post saying that they now use the YouTube notifications system to tell them when there’s a new episode available on FIRST. Notifications are possible within our iOS and Android apps, but we’ve not developed the workflow to use them quite yet; you’ll likely start to see us play with those by the end of this year.
To address the elephant in the room, our windowing on RWBY Chibi in no way reflects any decisions on how we'll window RWBY Volume 5. Check out my last post for more details as to why, but to sum it up: RWBY has a serialized narrative that drives conversation within our community, and although the vast majority of people who watch RWBY on our website are already logged-in FIRST members, that show does receive marginally more free-to-watch traffic than others. We’re still collecting data that will help make a decision about this, and we’ll keep you updated once we have a better idea of what the Fall will hold for us.
We’ve also made a number of adjustments to our lineup lately, and I’ve seen conversations asking “what happened to that show?” or “this show is great but no one is watching it, please support it!” or “is this show coming back?” or “PLS RT MORE STRANGERHOOD” (ok, not a ton of that last one). That tells me it’s high time to give you some insight into how we judge a show’s performance and decide if it should be renewed or canceled. (If you want details on how we greenlight shows, check out Burnie’s vlog on the subject.) While I can’t talk through a ton of specific numbers here, I can give you a sense of our priorities.
When we look at a show’s performance, we ask a lot of questions. First off, how many minutes of a show did we serve across all platforms, relative to our other shows? If you’ve ever posted anything on YouTube, you’ve likely seen this same “minutes watched” stat in YouTube’s analytics tab as well. The reason we all focus intently on it is because time is super valuable to our audience, and it has a clear, consistent definition. One minute is always 60 seconds (unless you distort gravity, but that’s generally not a concern for us). Compare that to a View, which has a completely different definition set by each platform that serves video. YouTube doesn’t tell us specifically what a view is, but it’s widely estimated that a YouTube view happens after someone watches 30 seconds of a video, with some exceptions. Facebook separates 10-second views and 3-second views. Other SVOD services define a view as the number of minutes of a video viewed by all subscribers divided by the total runtime of the video. So a view is relative to its definition; time is not. Views can be an indicator of minutes served when taken in context, but it’s pretty inconsistent and overly complex. It’s also really hard to compare the value of one show’s View to another, especially since our shows have widely varying run times.
Another important indicator to us is engagement, which is a buzzword that’s partly data and partly totally subjective. It refers to all the interactive things people do with our content besides watching it. Did they comment on it? Share it? Use a modifier on our website? Is there a specific moment in an episode that people clearly responded to? A character? On the subjective side, what’s the general feeling of that engagement? People sometimes engage a lot with something they absolutely hate, but the internet can also just be troll-y sometimes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Is there something about the engagement that can help us make the show better?
Last but certainly not least on the data side: did this show successfully serve a purpose for us? Is our community responding to it? Did it help us grow FIRST? Did it raise the overall profile and measurable audience of Rooster Teeth? If it’s a talk show, were we able to get ad sponsors excited enough about it that they’d support it? Is there something else we can do with this show on top of airing it on our own channels, like bring it to movie theaters, make an awesome, collector-worthy DVD, or create cool merch?
There are other factors too, unrelated to data. Shows that are really hard to produce for some reason, regardless of how much they cost to make, tend to have a higher bar to hit if we’re going to keep making them; we say that these shows “cost more than money to make.” If there’s a central creative issue with a show that we’ve not quite figured out how to solve despite having a season of episodes to experiment on, we likely will want a clear way forward before we’re OK making more of them. We also try to find learnings from the things we can control that affect data, like the specific way we linked from a YouTube video back to FIRST, and how we windowed the content. If there’s something we know we can do better next time, that helps. And there’s always that ultimate intangible: do we even want to make any more of this show? If the people who work on it have run out of creative steam, it’s pretty tough to ask them to do it all again.
All of that might help explain a few things some of you have noticed lately. Enjoy the Show and A Spot of Science (f.k.a. Let Me Clarify) have ended after their initial seasons. We tried airing a new episode of Enjoy the Show on The Know this past weekend to see if that might be a better home for a show in that vein, and so far we’re encouraged by the results. In both of those cases, we loved making the shows, but for good reasons you outlined in the comments, you didn’t respond to them as well as we had hoped. Same goes for Sex Swing: that was a ridiculously fun show to develop and work on, but we didn’t quite get it to where we needed to be on multiple levels, viewership included.
The best part of Rooster Teeth is, we’re going to launch a ton more new shows this year. Every one of them will be a chance to find the next thing you guys will fall in love with. It’s inevitable that not everything will work, and in fact most of it won’t, but we love trying new things with you guys and making adjustments until we get it right.