High-profile creators aren’t just based on YouTube. Two-year-old Kyra TV is building a hybrid model of media owner and talent management studio by scouring TikTok and Instagram, and other platforms to a lesser degree, for stars it can cast in series that it can then run on YouTube (and monetize).

For instance, two weeks ago Kyra recruited TikTok creator Noen Eubanks after spotting hyper-growth on his account in May. Kyra’s London-based co-founders jumped on a plane to Atlanta, Georgia, to meet 18-year-old Noen before signing him up. Eubanks only joined TikTok in March.

“Our mindset is to find and develop upcoming talent and turn them into global superstars and brands in their own right,” said Devran Karaca, one of Kyra TV’s four co-founders. “For monetization, we leverage their audience power to create great relationships with advertisers, brands and e-commerce businesses within these entities.”

Kyra is in talks to sign two other creators over the next few months. The plan is to build on the success of its two talent-led long-form shows on YouTube, “PAQ” and “Nayva.” The more recent, “Nayva” — a weekly 20 minute show airing each Tuesday, covering fashion, beauty, style and culture for teenage girls — launched last October and is fronted by four women.

Kyra took a more manual approach to recruitment for “Nayva’s” foursome, running Instagram ads to ask people in New York, Los Angeles and London to audition. Out of nearly 150,000 applicants, Kyra whittled it down to 18,000 who were invited for an open casting call.

Since launching in October, the channel has grown to 330,000 subscribers on YouTube thanks to episodes like recreating early 1990’s looks and animal print styling challenges. “Nayva” runs clips on TikTok and Instagram, but YouTube is the focus. With an average watch time of 15 minutes on 20-minute content, advertisers are drawn to its ability to get younger audiences to stick around, according to Karaca.

Thanks to this success, advertiser demand means this year the publisher is on track to make $10 million (£8.1 million) in revenue, three times what it made in 2018. Around 80% of this is from branded content; the rest from platform ad sales and e-commerce sales expected when it launches this line in October.

All “Nayva” episodes are available for branded content opportunities, which mostly take the form of product and brand integration. Kyra pitches the top-line narrative to brands, which typically pay six figures per episode. For Converse, sponsoring one episode last year led to a yearlong partnership. For now, between 20% and 30% of “Nayva’s” episodes are paid for by brands.

Although, according to Iona Goulder, creative director at Kyra TV, there will be a limit to how many brand episodes it can take on in order to keep up its growth rate. Aside from exceptions with brands like Nike and Beats by Dre, “Nayva’s” editorial episodes drive more subscribers than its brand episodes. This editorial episode, where the foursome recreated rapper Rico Nasty’s most iconic outfits drove 19,000 YouTube subscribers, with over 600,000 views. Beats by Dre drove 5,000 subscribers.

“If you have too many brand deals it’s more difficult to build your own personal brand franchise,” said Goulder. “There’s a danger you are potentially compromising your own message to integrate a brand’s message.” The channel is still less than a year old, so there’s room for more brand deals as it establishes itself.

Production studios and media companies, like Bleacher Report and Complex, have long worked with talent. Kyra’s approach is interesting because the talent is exclusive and it’s central to Kyra’s content ambitions. Brands work with Kyra’s talent via its shows, like “PAQ” and “Nayva,” but also for brands like Calvin Klein and TK Maxx; these presenters extend the campaigns through their own personal accounts.

Kyra has adapted its editorial strategies along the way. It previously launched two other shows, “Greatness” and “Bad Canteen,” but the high-production values of “Greatness,” where the presenters travel around the world, were only met when brands paid for the episode. New content hasn’t been added to these YouTube channels in the last year. Now Kyra is focused on developing formats that are feasible with or without brand involvements. Revenues from pre-roll ads on platforms have never been a core aim. From the start, the publisher has avoided being sucked into the quick-scale mentality and high — but potentially meaningless — views of Facebook.

While agencies are impressed with Kyra’s ability to create longer-form shows for younger people, it needs to work on developing its slate. “The challenge, as always, is how you scale while still being authentic,” said Dan Wood, joint head of MediaCom Beyond Advertising. “Sure they have been aggressively casting and looking for the right options, but it’s not easy to develop this stuff overnight.” Using tech to scour platforms for upcoming talent will boost its ability to find emerging stars more quickly.

To date, the company has raised $5 million (£4 million) in funding, and it has just closed a seed round for a higher number to be announced in October. This will go to setting up its e-commerce line, opening an office in LA, launching between two and three new shows and signing new talent by the end of the year. Kyra has grown to 60 people. By the end of the year, it will have another 15 or so in LA. With a base there, Kyra expects to ramp up its talent acquisition. Already, 60% of “Nayva’s” audience is in the U.S.

As younger people increasingly spend more of their time on social media rather than TV — GlobalWebIndex found people spend on average 2 hours and 22 minutes a day on social media — looking to these platforms for talent makes sense.

“These platforms are essentially the cable networks of the modern era,” said Karaca. “It’s about getting as much attention from that [Gen Z] audience. The people winning on those networks are the talent, so we believe in building that infrastructure and strategy around them.”

Image: courtesy of Kyra TV.

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