For one so chatty, Talking Tom has accomplished quite a bit. Cyprus-based entertainment company Outfit7′s talking tomcat has spawned a wide array of apps, consumer products, short-form video content and an upcoming feature film. In the mobile realm, the franchise has amassed more than 2.6 billion downloads and attracts 250 million active users a month. And two weeks ago, Outfit7 launched its CGI-animated Talking Tom and Friends series on YouTube. Within seven days, the first episode of the 52 x 11-minute series was viewed more than eight million times. As more kids are heading to YouTube to satisfy growing appetites for short-form content, the achievement is worth noting. (Developed by Outfit7′s Samo Login and Boris Dolenc, along with Tom Martin of The Simpsons writing fame, the series is produced by Vienna-based studio Arx Anima.)
iKids spoke with Outfit7′s CEO and founder Login about why the show has taken off so quickly, the decision to launch on YouTube, and the benefits of debuting a show on the world’s largest video platform.
How do you interpret the performance of Talking Tom and Friends in its first week?
For us, this was not a big surprise because we have published lots of premium content before this animated series on YouTube. The series is our most successful content on YouTube so far and we’ve had great traction. Our viewers seem to be excited and really like it.
Can you tell us a little bit about the origin of the series?
After many years with our apps, we decided to bring another level of storytelling. It made the most sense to go into an animated series. It’s something that creates a deeper attachment in our audience to our brand. We are not changing the brand—we are just adding another dimension with animated storytelling content.
What prompted you to launch Talking Tom and Friends on YouTube?
Going to YouTube first was a very natural step, because we already have great mobile distribution. Cross-promotion from the apps to video is quite efficient, because it’s only one click away. For us, putting it on YouTube first, with our strong user base, will be the fastest way to recoup the investment.
If you compare distribution via YouTube to what happens when you go with [traditional] broadcasters, you usually need to fully develop the series and hand it over to the broadcasters. The feedback that you would get for the series is very delayed. Because we can put it on YouTube straight away, we can publish immediately…and this means that we also get instant feedback. I’m not saying that we can change the scripts for the episode next week, because production takes longer, but we can change our scripts or stories for episodes that will be later on in the same series. Also from this creative perspective, YouTube is much more efficient than putting something on TV.
What audience are you targeting with the series?
Our core audience is young teenagers—11- to 12-year-olds—and it could be a bit younger. The humor is done in a way that it’s also funny for adults. At the premiere we had at YouTube Space LA, we could see grownups laughing because the humor is universal. It was something that was really important to us. If you look at other content that is produced for these demographics, there is a lot of screaming and anger in it because this is something that teenagers really easily relate to, but we decided to go the other way. To create something with humor that is positive.
Who are your biggest competitors in the digital entertainment space?
It’s hard to say because I wouldn’t really limit it to certain brands or apps or even certain video content. Look at how easy it is today, to switch from playing one game to another, or from watching one video to watching something completely different. Our competitors are everybody that competes for the time of our users.
What’s next for the Talking Tom brand?
Our episodes launch weekly, and we have huge expectations for our animated series. We want to create as many touch points for that brand as possible, so that users will be able to spend as much of their time as possible with Talking Tom. That would be more apps for the brand and also our feature film, which is currently in pre-production.
How has digital distribution changed since the Talking Tom brand first launched on YouTube in 2010?
I would say that we have seen a definite increase of competition. More and more, brands are aware that they cannot neglect YouTube and just focus on broadcasters. I think that we were the first kids brand that launched on YouTube first. But I believe others will follow and that focusing premium content on YouTube will become standard. YouTube has grown and it’s become even stronger. If you compare the minutes watched, it’s like the biggest single TV station in the US, and it’s been that way for more than a year. Nobody can ignore YouTube anymore.