I used to work for Viacom, the company that owns MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount, so I was already in the media side of the industry. Starting Hopster was my intro into the tech side.
This is a time of massive change in the content and media industry with some really important and exciting new developments. Users are now taking more control over their content – a lot have cut the cord and stopped paying for expensive pay TV subscriptions and instead adopted services like Hopster. There’s also a big change in how kids are watching shows. More and more they’re turning off the TV and heading online – watching on demand when and where they want to. At the same time, there’s a growing concern about ad-funded, open source platforms, like YouTube Kids. More and more parents are looking for safe, curated services that they feel good about giving to their children.
Mobile, mobile, mobile. We’re still seeing more and more families and content consumption shift to mobile – and we are also seeing more and more operators realise that they can partner with people like us to make their services better. That’s exciting.
The inspiration came from personal need. Our daughter was 3 years old back in 2013 and she was just beginning to discover the world of apps and TV. Unfortunately a lot of what she came across was low quality. Our inspiration was to build something better – a quality destination she’d keep coming back to. And that’s our vision for Hopster: a completely safe, ad-free environment helping kids learn through the stories they love – in a single app.
We launched in the US back in 2016 and now we’re really focusing on growing there. We just signed a deal with Sesame Street, which is one of the biggest content deals we’ve ever done in the US, and we’ll be announcing some exciting partnerships soon, so we’ll be pushing hard on building out a business there. We’ve also just done our first original video content and are really happy with how it’s gone. We’ll be doing more of that.
Our mission is to help kids learn through the stories they love. That’s what differentiates us. So when I think about our key initiatives, it’s about how we deliver more of our mission. It’s about investing in more original content that’s exclusive to us, building up our library of games, and investing in our platform in order to be in more places and have new features, like a really seamless and smooth offline functionality. These are the things we’re really focusing on for the future.
We had a real learning curve early on in Hopster’s life. When we first launched we were one of the first subscription apps in the App Store so we had to find out how the model works, what it takes for people to subscribe and how we could build our user-base. In our first month in the App Store we had about 29 subscribers and only 14 of them came back the next month. So figuring out how to sustainably and profitably build a subscriber base through an app has probably been the most challenging thing for me.
One fantastic review we got on the App Store was from a user who had discovered the app for her granddaughter. Her granddaughter was on the autistic spectrum and delayed in her speech. She loved the Hopster environment, so she thought it would be a great place for her granddaughter, and by using the app, the little girl made accelerated process in speech. That’s pretty much an ideal experience for us.
One of the things we do at Hopster is that we try to be really transparent with our team. We have a finance review every quarter, so everyone knows where we’re at and how many subscribers we have. We discuss the KPIs that we think are important for the business and every month we get together to talk about how they are performing and what each one of us could do to improve them. Then I give my team free rein and autonomy to work individually and creatively to achieve these. There’s a shared consciousness where everyone understands where we’re going as a business, so they can all fit their decisions and actions into that framework.
I think if you’re in the media world right now and you don’t understand the technology side, your career will be short lived.