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Vevo to Postpone Subscription Launch, Focus on International Expansion

Music video service Vevo is putting the brakes on its planned subscription service, and will instead focus on its international expansion as well as original content production in the months to come, CEO Erik Huggers told Variety during a recent interview.

Huggers first announced in February of 2016 that Vevo was looking to launch a paid service, possibly even before the end of 2016. A year later, those priorities clearly have shifted. A subscription tier continues to be a part of Vevo’s long-term strategy, Huggers said. “It’s completely still in the cards.”

But at least in the near future, the company is emphasizing other initiatives. “This is about timing and sequencing,” Huggers said, explaining that the company sees a further international expansion as a necessary step one.

Vevo’s music is available in many countries around the world through its partnership with YouTube, with Huggers saying that “80% of Vevo’s audience is outside of the U.S.” However, the company is only operating its own localized website and apps in 14 markets, including the U.K., Germany, Brazil, and Mexico. The company’s goal was to grow this international presence “quite significantly” in the coming months, Hugger said, possibly doubling or even tripling its international footprint before the end of the year.

Huggers said that Vevo had already done much of the groundwork to prepare for this international expansion, from the launch of new apps to a new corporate identity. “2016 for us was all about laying the foundation,” he said.

This also included what he called “a hard reset on content and programming activity.” In addition to producing music videos and recordings from its own live events, Vevo has also started to produce interviews, animated shorts, a show about teenagers dressing up like their favorite pop stars, and a short doc series featuring pop stars talking about issues like police brutality and LGBT rights ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Vevo isn’t the only company in the music space experimenting with video originals. Apple has been busy hiring talent and striking deals to produce videos for Apple Music, and Spotify has been dabbling in the space for some time as well. Huggers seemed unconcerned by the competition. “It’s wonderful that all of these companies are getting into video. But these are audio companies first,” he said. “For us, it is the core of our strategy.”

However, Vevo wants to keep its originals focused, and short. “We are not going to commission expensive, Netflix-style TV shows,” Huggers said. “That’s not what our audience wants. For us, it’s all about short-form video.”

Huggers didn’t reveal too many details about what kind of formats Vevo is going to produce in the coming months, but he said that short clips for Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram are a key part of the strategy going forward, with the goal of reaching “hundreds of millions” of additional viewers on these platforms.

Huggers took over as CEO of Vevo in April of 2015. Before that, he was leading Intel’s efforts to launch an internet-based pay TV service dubbed OnCue, which came to a halt when the company sold the service to Verizon in early 2014 before launching it to the public.

With Vevo, he took over a service owned by two of the three big music companies, which had been primarily known for supplying major label videos to YouTube. Google also owns a minority stake in Vevo, but Huggers has since looked to strike a more independent course, putting a bigger emphasis on its own website and apps. Talking to Variety, he made sure to praise YouTube as an important syndication partner, but also questioned whether the video platform with its boundless catalog really offered the best experience for music video consumption.

In recent months, Vevo began to experiment with windowing individual songs, releasing them on Vevo.com days before they were uploaded to YouTube. Huggers kept his cards close to the chest when asked whether the company will do more of this kind of windowing, or even release music exclusively on its own platforms. “All cards are on the table,” he said.

And eventually, those cards may also include that now-postponed subscription service. “We will switch it on when it’s right,” Huggers said.

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