There was a time when The Yogscast was synonymous with World of Warcraft and Minecraft Let’s Play videos. Since then, however, the Bristol-based production firm has grown into a full-blown media company with multiple brands across a variety of digital platforms.
Not only does it have a network of over 20 million subscribers, it’s also the home of both PlayStation Access and Xbox On. The former might be moving on to pastures new very soon, but the fact Yogscast’s worked with both Microsoft and Sony to produce its official YouTube channels speaks volumes about how far it’s come since its inception in 2008.
Now Yogscast is looking to expand its capabilities as a fully-fledged production agency.
“We remain focused on working with our talent-led channels and helping them grow and increase engagement on YouTube, while also launching our own channels into various verticals, be they board games, strategy games, mobile games or kids content,” CEO Mark Turpin (pictured below) tells MCV.
“However, the past 18 months has also been about building out our live-streaming operation. We’ve always used Twitch for our December charity streams so it’s building on that. Our main Yogscast channel on Twitch has at least three hours of content every day and we have lots of exciting things coming for that and across other Yogscast Twitch channels.”
Chief revenue officer Rich Keith (below) adds: “Our third priority is building out our production agency arm. Having spent the last nine years learning through trial and error and working closely with YouTube, Twitch and others we’ve got a pretty good idea for what works in social digital video and we use that knowledge, along with our made-for-purpose studios and production team, to give an edge to our clients, be that managing and producing YouTube channels, running streams or just producing great made-for digital videos.”
Indeed, it was that experience which played a crucial role in Yogscast obtaining contracts for both Sony’s PlayStation Access channel and Microsoft’s Xbox On.
“We’ve had an amazing ride with PlayStation Access,” says Turpin. “Nathan [Ditum], Dave [Jackson] and Rob [Pearson] plus Hollie [Bennett] and the PlayStation UK team have done an incredible job. When they came to us, it had about 250,000 subs and what they were looking for was support, a welcoming environment and some guidance on how the platform works. It’s now four years later with nearly 1.4m subs and Holly and the guys are bone fide, class-A YouTube stars. We’re really proud of them and what they’ve achieved with us and are looking forward to seeing where they will take the channel when they strike out on their own.”
Xbox On, meanwhile, is just at the start of that process with Yogscast, and five months in, the number of minutes being watched on the channel has already seen an annual growth of over 250 per cent, says Keith. Numbers, however, are just one part of the puzzle.
“It’s about the substance and style of the content the team are putting together,” he says. “Xbox On is really flying and has seen tremendous growth since we took it over and blended together a new team and brought [former Official Xbox Magazine editor] Matt Castle in to run it.”
He continues: “We don’t think there’s anyone in this space that knows as much as we do about how to grow channels, make video and manage influencers and there’s a tremendous value in that for anyone who wants to build communities or simply get more people to watch and engage with their social video content.”
Managing official channels for both PlayStation and Xbox is arguably quite at odds with the rest of Yogscast’s portfolio, which are all largely owned and manned by individual creators unaffiliated with specific companies. However, Turpin says that its experience on both sides of the YouTube fence is precisely what makes Yogscast so well positioned to tackle these official corporate channels.
“That taps into exactly why we’re the best people to deliver these sorts of channels, because we understand the platform, what the audience expects and how to deliver it,” he says.
One of the biggest concerns for YouTube going forward, though, is the number of content creators leaving the service for Twitch. After months of concerns over falling viewing numbers, disappearing subscribers and the much debated curation of its trending content, a lot of YouTubers have been quick to voice their growing frustrations.
Yogscast has felt the pinch, too, says Keith: “Our audience is still watching a lot, with average watch time on VODs at around the nine-minute mark, but there’s a lot more competition out there and the algorithm, especially on YouTube, promotes the new and the flashy over our kind of long-form rapport-based personality channels.”
Of course, Twitch isn’t a perfect fit for all YouTubers, but there’s no denying the platform has become an increasingly attractive place in the wake of YouTube’s ongoing issues. In the last three months alone, it’s launched its new IRL category, where creators can stream non-gameplay content from their everyday lives, as well as its new Communities feature to help aid discoverability. Then, just last month Twitch announced it’s going to start selling games and in-game content directly this spring, with streamers earning five per cent of sales that originate from their own channel pages.
That’s a huge shift in the relationship between games publishers and their community of influencers, but Keith says it’s unlikely to have a direct effect on Yogscast’s future: “I don’t think it’ll have much of an impact for us as a business, however it’s an interesting experiment and shows a lot of intent from Twitch and Amazon about their plans.”
For now, Twitch and YouTube hold equal weight for Yogscast: “Twitch is hugely important for us and we have exciting announcements about what we’re doing coming soon. However we remain fully committed to growing our existing YouTube channels and bringing more into the fold, whether by signing them up or launching new ones. Our Yogscast audience is extremely loyal and we engage with them not just on YouTube but in streams, at live events and our social channels.”
Keith adds: “We’ve successfully diversified over the past three or four years so our business isn’t dependent on YouTube. We have a great relationship with the YouTube teams in the UK and the US and understand the struggles they’ve had to keep everyone – creators and viewers – happy.”
For Turpin, both platforms still have room for improvement. Over the next couple of years, he predicts that “both will continue to try to find additional ways to engage audiences through empowering the creators on their platforms to create innovative content.”
As for Yogscast’s future, Keith says its main priority is expanding its production agency operation: “We’re looking to work with anyone in the games and geek space looking to create timely, entertaining social digital video for whatever platform. Our services run from giving advice and direction to producing videos and streams to the full-monty of full production and channel management, as with Xbox On.”