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“It is time for new alliances to survive on the German market”

By Melanie Schmid & Franziska Schulze

On the first anniversary of “Joyn”, we spoke with Katja Hofem, CCMO and managing director of the broadcasting companies ProSiebenSat.1’s and Discovery’s streaming brand. The following interview is about a busy year, new formats and, a dynamic way of working.

Happy Birthday, Joyn! What is the first word that comes to your mind when you look back on the first year?

Katja Hofem: Proud! When I look back, I am incredibly proud of the milestones we have achieved in the past months and Joyn’s positive development. Only one year after the launch, Joyn already counts about four million unique users per month. The app has been downloaded over ten million times. Two of our originals, "MAPA" and "Frau Jordan stellt gleich" were nominated for the German Television Award. This is really great and beautiful!

In an article by Kress you spoke of Joyn being "a brand that listens to the user". What does that mean?

Hofem: From very early on, we invited users to give us their feedback and to be part of Joyn’s community. We want to create a user-friendly product that provides a pleasant viewing experience. Therefore, we maintain a constant exchange with our community in order to use their feedback to further develop our app and content. In September 2019 we implemented the first user feedback and made Joyn accessible on Google Chromecast. New features that our users have requested, such as personalized recommendations or the original language, will follow over the course of the year.

With Joyn, you wanted to create a brand with an offer that does not yet exist in Germany. Were you able to put this plan into practice? What makes Joyn different from the others?

Hofem: Absolutely! We are the only ones on the German TV market that provide a so-called Freemium Model. Our number of users proves that this is a success. Joyn is only available on the German market and the content of our originals is very local and has a lot to do with the German way of living. We create content that reaches a local audience. In addition, we provide the most user-oriented streaming platform in Germany. We work hard to make our video content accessible for all and we want to put the viewer at the center of our platform. This is why Joyn is very easy to use.

In contrast to the big streaming providers Netflix and Amazon, Joyn's offer is partly free of charge. Where does this model end and how has this strategy proven itself?

Hofem: Consolidating different entertainment offers into one app and one platform was something that many people were looking for. The combination of a free offer with live streams and a media library with catch-up and preview content, originals with a premium section and HD live stream, exclusive content and premium originals, as well as movies and series is unique on the market. The number of users proves that this model is successful. Aditionally, the free section and the premium offers are mutually enriching. For example, many users of our Plus model watch series that they have already seen and thus benefit from an offer that is free of advertising.

How important is cooperation with the public service broadcasters? The channels ZDF and ARD, for example, are firmly committed to it.

Hofem: ARD and ZDF are two well established broadcasters that collaborate with our platform. We are happy to work with such well-known brands on our live stream. We are constantly searching for new partners. When it comes to our content, we contact private and public service broadcasters.

There are more and more collaborations of private and public service broadcasters when it comes to series and movies. Did the old rivalries come to an end because of the huge international competition?

Hofem: We also collaborate with public service broadcasters. Our original “MAPA”, for example, was developed together with the public broadcasting company rbb. The streaming market is not about winning or losing. Of course, we have to consolidate our services if there are more and more streaming providers on the market. Joyn is an “aggregator platform” and we have a competitive advantage. No one knows the German market better than the German streaming providers. It is time to form new alliances in order to remain on the German market.

Your goal is to reach ten million users in two years. How do you want to achieve that and where are you in regard to this at the moment?

Hofem: This is an ambitious goal, of course, but we are very happy with last year’s development. The first part of the run was successful, and we are looking forward to new goals.

One of your tasks is to develop new formats. What can viewers look forward to in the future?

Hofem: In the next few months there will be more interesting originals and exclusive content on the platform. “Blackout”, for example, is a premium series based on Marc Elsberg's million-selling book of the same name. Joyn produced the series together with W&B Television and SAT.1, and the popular German actor Moritz Bleibtreu plays the main character of the thriller series. In addition, we have created a new reality show featuring a popular lady in search of the love of her life. “Stichtag” (D-day) and “Shame Game” are two extraordinary in-house productions. The young and progressive web series Stichtag is about “the first time” and in “Shame Game” different influencers challenge their colleague Aaron Troschke. The winner decides on the next social media content of the other. Also, the fictional originals “Frau Jordan stellt gleich”, “Check Check” and “Slavik - auf Staats Nacken” will go have a second season. Fans of “jerks.” can look forward to a Christmas special, and season four will start next year.

How does the current crisis affect Joyn?

Hofem: We are very happy to provide services that are important for people that are staying at home. We know that this comes with a great responsibility. This is why we decided to provide three months free of charge for people that were socially isolated. Our aim is to help people to have a good time at home.  We have also created the aid initiative “Joyn Cares” in order to support the non-profit food bank “Tafel Deutschland e.V.”, which is also suffering from the effects of the Corona crisis.

Of course, this pandemic is a big challenge for us. For instance, we had to stop shooting some productions. Formats, such as “MAPA”, “M.o.M.”, or “Aus dem Tagebuch eines Uber-Fahrers” (Diary of an Uber-Driver) were streamed anyways. Their production was already complete, or the post-production process had already started. But we have to find new and innovative ways to fill our content pipeline sooner or later. One of these new formats, for example, was “Join me @ home”, which we developed in less than two weeks together with Studio 71. But – there won’t be any negative effects for the users. We promised 12 originals per year, and we will keep that promise!

The Corona pandemic changes working processes. Entire companies work from home, voting and team updates take place online. How are you working in your company at the moment?

Hofem: The health and safety of our employees is our top priority. Therefore, we decided very early on that it is best if we work from home. We reassess the situation from week to week and currently allow up to 30 employees to return to the office on a voluntary basis. We are very happy to see how well the digital collaboration worked and how committed our team is despite this unusual situation.

Due to the changed situation, a lot of broadcasters developed new ideas and innovative projects. Things that were hard to implement before or required a long process, have been put into practice within a few days. Have you had a similar experience in your company and how will you use this experience in the future?

Hofem: We are a very young company and our way of working is very dynamic and digital. We were able to change and implement processes quickly and unbureaucratically. I am very proud that we were able to offer our free months without further problems. In addition, we created "Join me @ home", a format that addresses the current challenges.