‘We are growing very fast and we are profitable’ – the Ilta-Sanomat TV success story

Just one week before the Finnish elections on 19 April and with the potential new Prime Minister in the studio next door, Hanna Kouri, Channel Director, ISTV, took time out to tell us about their success with their online video platform.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | April 9, 2015

It was just two years ago when the publisher of Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat approached Kouri and asked her to lead the new venture.

ISTV has now blossomed with 4 million video plays per week, and the newsroom has kept pace, growing from 2 to 20 people and integrated fully with the rest of the online operation.

The good news is that commercial results have followed the audience growth, and finding advertising has not been a problem. They offer a mix of banner ads, pre-roll and sponsorship, and of course most of the money comes from pre-roll which is fully booked. Outside of news, they seek sponsorship for every video, and have a new revenue stream in the form of paid content: selling live streams for key Finnish sports events. As Kouri says, it’s “small but developing very fast”.

Big advantages

Sanoma‘s might and reach has given the channel a huge kick start. ISTV were able to bring in staff from their TV news operation and mine sister production companies for shows and content. It also gives them a big reach across Finland’s population and makes them less reliant on social media or global platforms like YouTube.

When it comes to YouTube, Kouri says “I don’t want to sound cocky, but at the moment we don’t need it”. They only occasionally share their content on YouTube for marketing purposes. From a purely commercial perspective, she says, “it’s very important that we are the final destination”.

“If it’s interesting, it’s in Ilta-Sanomat”

Kouri points out that you cannot transfer the content model from TV: “You can’t force people to watch, they watch what they want.” This means keeping constantly fresh and ISTV have a wide variety of sources. This includes content developed in-house by five experienced videographers, buying in media from other news and media agencies, or getting it developed specially by other Sanoma production companies.

They have recently had success bringing in YouTubers, acting as a sort of off-YouTube MCN. The duo from ToosaTV were given a “free hand” in the ISTV studio and asked “how would you do it?” with what Kouri describes as “huge success”.

Mobile first

If others cannot match the scale and reach of Sanoma, there is one universal lesson: the audience has migrated to mobile. ISTV reaches a younger audience than the paper as a whole, and this means only 30% of traffic is desktop. They think “mobile first always”, matching the trends in Facebook and YouTube usage across Europe and the U.S.

As online TV goes mainstream, with Buzzfeed recently securing a very open interview with David Cameron, viewers will surely follow. And for sheer output, reach and profitability, ISTV sets a high standard for its European rivals.

If you’d like to hear more, Hanna Kouri will speak at Digital Media Europe on 21 April

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