Kyra TV thinks it’s found the recipe for building a sustainable, Gen Z-focused digital entertainment company.
The startup, founded by four guys in London in March 2017, is creating original lifestyle shows for YouTube, geared toward young audiences. But Kyra TV is focused on generating revenue through brand deals — not video advertising — and is signing long-term contracts with talent for its series.
“We want to recreate TV for the YouTube generation,” said James Cadwallader, co-founder and head of creative for Kyra TV. “I hope this doesn’t come across as egotistical, but we are defining a new category of premium content.”
According to Cadwallader, Kyra TV is on track to generate $10 million in revenue in 2019 from its two current shows, which it releases weekly on YouTube: PAQ, focusing on fashion and streetwear (740,000 subscribers); and Nayva, covering beauty and fashion (365,000 subscribers).
Those aren’t blockbuster follower counts in the world of YouTube, but Kyra TV claims it has big reach for its content. It recently surpassed a cumulative 1 billion minutes of watch-time on YouTube (with 167 million in September 2019 alone). On average, Kyra TV’s content reaches about 55 million unique users across YouTube and Instagram, according to COO and co-founder Devran Karaca.
Virtually all of the company’s revenue comes from its brand-integration deals with partners that have included Nike’s Converse, Apple’s Beats by Dre, Google, Nikon, Gucci, Prada, Ralph Lauren, and Unilever’s Axe. What’s been interesting to see, Cadwallader said, is that Kyra TV’s branded content outperforms the purely editorial videos in terms of views and engagement.
Now Kyra TV is looking to expand its business, particularly in the U.S., with new shows slated to launch before the end of 2019 with two new talent partners: Noen Eubanks, an 18-year-old “softboi” from suburban Atlanta who has more than 6 million followers on TikTok since joining less than a year ago; and Eric Tabach, a 22-year-old former viral video producer for BuzzFeed. The shows at this point are still in development, but Eubanks and Tabach will be the featured hosts.
Kyra TV also in late October a lease on a 12,000-square-foot studio space in downtown Los Angeles (where Cadwallader is relocating from London), and is planning to open a studio in New York as well. In 2020, the company plans to go even bigger, with a plans to launch a slate of at least 10 new digital shows, branching into new genres and formats, like scripted series, animation, talk shows and shows focused on food, travel and sports.
Tabach produced several hits during his stint the past two years at BuzzFeed, including “Exes Kiss for the First Time,” “I Went To Work Wearing Only Body Paint” and “I Think My Dad Is a Russian Spy.” He said he’s still figuring out with the Kyra team the exact focus and name (working title: “The Eric Show”) but said it will center on comedy, entertainment and travel.
Tabach has a three-year deal with Kyra TV with an option to renew after two years depending on how well the show is doing. As with the company’s other talent deals, his contract includes a revenue-sharing provision. “For me, it was never about money. This kind of show, if it’s successful, will obviously lead to higher compensation but for me, it’s about starting a show from scratch and building it from the ground up.”
Kyra TV’s focus — perhaps not surprising, given its business model is premised on being brand-friendly — is on upbeat, positive and entertaining content, avoiding subjects like politics. “We wanted to be the antithesis of a company like Vice, to create a brand that is not rooted in negativity,” Cadwallader said.
Kyra (pronounced “KAI-rah”) recently closed a $7.3 million seed round of investment from investors including Guardian Media Group’s GMG Ventures, First Minute Capital, Playfair Capital, Torch Capital, Rainfall Ventures and individual investors. The company has around 75 employees, with about 50 of those in London and the rest in New York and L.A.
Kyra TV’s co-founders, in addition to Cadwallader and Karaca, are CEO Robbie Shimmin and CTO Nick Dart. Prior to forming Kyra, three of them (Karaca, Shimmin and Dart) had started launched a city-guide app called Dojo, which failed to take off.
Pictured above: Kyra TV’s new studio in downtown L.A.