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Launching in times of crisis: FYEO has reached the home stretch

Von Katrin Baumer

What are the challenges of launching a new radio channel in times of crisis? In March 2020, ProSiebenSat.1 planned the launch of its on-demand service FYEO (For Your Ears Only), but Coronavirus suddenly changed our everyday life as well as the challenges and work methods of most companies and the first broadcast was postponed until April 23rd. Benjamin Risom and Luca Hirschfeld, the founders of the new platform, let us take a look behind the scenes.

A launch in the middle of the Corona crisis: challenge or coincidence?

Benjamin Risom: We have been dealing with this question for a long time. I would not choose either of these terms. It is definitely not a coincidence, but I think it is more likely to be a challenge. There are polls that say audio usage is now increasing. There are also figures that say that the trend is negative. One thing is clear: if we had the choice, of course we would have liked to launch the platform without the crisis because it is a great challenge for us as a team, as well as for many of our partners. We hope, however, that FYEO provides a nice distraction for people in this moment.

 Is distraction a key success factor?

Benjamin: Maybe. With our model we are of course doing something very different from other projects. In this respect, we will simply have to learn whether FYEO can be successful in these very extraordinary times or not. The truth lies in the market. Anything else is speculation.

Benjamin Risom. Photo: ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE

What were the biggest hurdles and changes you had to deal with on the home stretch to the launch?

Luca Hirschfeld: We work with a lot of producers and smaller companies. On one of our productions, for example, one of the actors fell ill. For the entire production team that worked with him in the studios this meant they were off to quarantine.

In conclusion, the program will be delayed by a couple of weeks until everyone is well again and can go out.

The fact that people can’t travel at the moment leads to delays. The advantage of the audio field is that we can send the equipment to the people we work with and they can record the program at home. We always find a solution to be able to continue to work.

Benjamin: This situation affects the content as well as the product development and the marketing. Right before the launch we need everything to come together just in time. Things have to fit together like the pieces of a puzzle and a digital product launch can only be successful if a lot of people invest their passion and energy into it.

Team culture is extremely important, and it is not optimal to work separately. If everyone sits together in the same room, you can share the passion for the work and it is easier to work long hours.

Of course, there are risks and things you can’t foresee when you collaborate with service providers, but we have overcome those obstacles and are on the home stretch now. We are very happy to launch FYEO this Thursday.

Have you thought about the moments in which people could potentially listen to FYEO now? Especially when they don’t have to commute to work and are staying at home?

Luca: People listen to audio content not only when they commute, but also when they play sports or cook at home. We have thought about different content offerings for this - FYEO offers shorter, 10 to 15-minute programs, but also features that are 20 to 30 minutes long or even over an hour.

Benjamin: We have programs in the works like a Netflix series. There are different series and episodes that can be perfectly integrated into everyone’s daily routine. In tests with audio users, we have found that people don’t mind if they can only listen to half of the episode and wait for the other half. The audio medium is therefore very flexible.

Luca Hirschfeld. Poto: ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE

Have you had a special experience that sparked your own passion for audio?

Luca: I have listened to radio plays since I was a child, I don’t listen to a lot of music. In the last few years I have listened to more and more podcasts, especially to American productions in order to broaden my horizon. Most of the time I listen to them when I commute or cook.

As a child, I really liked the Harry Potter audio books. And then of course there is the detective series “Drei Fragezeichen” that has played an important role in the childhood of many Germans. I still listen to it now and last year I even saw a live show.

Benjamin: When I was a child, I really loved radio plays. I was a fan of the little goblin “Pumuckl” and listened to all the classics that children listen to even today. When I was sick my parents always gave me a new radio play. Even as a teenager I always listened to radio plays and enjoyed them a lot.

Later I started to listen to more music. It was only in recent years that I rediscovered my passion for spoken word and radio plays. This is due to the great programs that exist nowadays. There are very interesting productions from the United States that provide excellent entertainment, but in Germany we also have great listening experiences like “Faking Hitler” from the magazine “Stern”.

What is your vision for FYEO offerings?

Benjamin: There is a real podcast hype in Germany at the moment, especially when it comes to programs where two people have a dialogue. But we are convinced that the next step will go towards high quality and entertaining fictional and documentary content. This is where FYEO can hit a nerve.

Luca: Exactly! We believe that this audio market is still very young and a lot of things are about to happen. With FYEO we want to take part in that and set new standards.