Hi friends, happy almost Easter and Passover!
I introduced myself back in June when I joined, but in case you missed that – hey there, I’m Evan, and I lead the Programming department at RT.
Among other things, my job is to be part of the group that discusses and decides how we should release and window our content. My perspective on this is based on a lot of experience making stuff for the web and releasing it in different ways, keeping up with how platforms like YouTube and Facebook are changing, and, most of all, data about how all of you watch and interact with our content. With all the talk around windowing lately, I wanted to open up some of what goes into these decisions.
First off, here’s a fact: FIRST memberships are what enable us to make content. That’s been true since the Sponsor program began, and it might be even more true now, when making content is just one of the many things we do. Content drives conversation within our community, and for that reason, even if you can watch our content elsewhere, we want a FIRST membership to be the absolute best way for our community to watch and gather around our shows. You’ve likely heard Burnie already talk about how we’re also working on some amazing changes to the platform that I know will further help us achieve that goal.
Another fact: More than 95% of people who watch content on RoosterTeeth.com are already logged-in FIRST members, and that number is increasing. Two notable exceptions are Red vs. Blue and RWBY, when we see a lot more people taking advantage of a free-to-watch window on our site. But even those two shows are viewed mostly by FIRST members on RoosterTeeth.com. The trend is clear: if you watch our shows for free, you overwhelmingly do it elsewhere (and we’re totally fine with that!).
Not surprisingly, FIRST members also watch a lot more content on our site than non-members. Members have told us over and over again that exclusive content in particular is the biggest reason why they join, and why they keep their memberships. The 24-hour early access to shows, RT Store discount, no ads, and early access to tickets are all awesome (and they’re not going anywhere), but it’s the exclusive shows that make it worthwhile to join.
All that in mind, it’s my job to make sure we always have amazing shows to watch on FIRST, and that we launch new shows frequently. We know that your appetite to consume new content on FIRST has already outpaced our ability to make it. Every time we premiere another FIRST-exclusive show, it’s among the most-watched content on our website. We hear you when you tell us that we make so many shows that it’s hard to keep up, but WOW, do you watch it all.
There are two ways we can address this. Obviously the most important way is to make a lot of new FIRST-exclusive shows, which we are definitely doing. Most of those shows (like Day 5 and Crunch Time) take a lot of time to develop, write, produce, edit, and release, especially if we want them to live up to our standards. You’re going to start seeing more and more FIRST-exclusive episodic shows – and even original movies – coming up very soon, even while we continue to make more and more shows you can still watch completely for free. Just to illustrate this, here’s a graph comparing how many minutes of content we produced and published across all our channels for the last two years.
Yes, we plan to publish ~140,000 total minutes of content this year, and the vast majority will be totally free to watch.
But we can’t (and won’t) support FIRST by only making new FIRST-exclusive shows. Not only would that be unfair to the many of you who watch our shows for free, it’s also impossible to do unless we have unlimited funds (which we don’t). What’s more, if we do it right, our free-to-watch shows can help us grow FIRST and afford to make more shows.
We will never, EVER, take something free away from you. If a show has always had a free-to-watch window, it will always become free to watch; however, we will be experimental and try new things to make sure the free-to-watch window always supports FIRST as best it can. Decisions around windowing will always be guided by community and data.
With all this in mind, in January of this year we started experimenting with a 7-day windowing strategy, starting with RTAA. Immediately, some amazing things happened: YouTube traffic didn’t change, the amount of traffic that the YouTube videos were driving to RoosterTeeth.com tripled, and RTAA episodes suddenly became some of the most-watched content on our site. Turns out you like watching RTAA on RoosterTeeth.com – you just couldn’t find it very well before!
Next, we tried the 7-day FIRST window with our new show Sex Swing. Results were consistent, even with a brand-new show that wasn’t getting the major YouTube views RTAA gets every week.
We knew Million Dollars, But... and Red vs. Blue were our next tests, and we also knew RvB in particular would be different since the narrative is serialized, and because Red vs. Blue gets a lot more viewership on RoosterTeeth.com from non-FIRST-members compared to other shows. This led to conversations over the past few months, which included discussions about how this was received last year when we tried to do it with RWBY. In the end, we decided to do what we’ve done so many times: try it, monitor it, and learn from it.
We are so thankful for our RT Family, and for the community dynamic that made us what we are today. But we realize we’ll sometimes have to make choices that will not always be 100% well-received. Even as we try things that we know might change the community dynamic, we will do everything we can to protect the community while also balancing the needs of our growing business.
You’ve supported us since the beginning, and we know you’ll help us out and be patient when we try new things, even when they’re not easy for any of us. Like any good relationship, the most important thing we can do is communicate clearly. I hope this was interesting to even a few of you, and feel free to ask questions in the comments - I’ll answer as many as I can!