The fact that niche SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) services are on the rise is old news – there’s an SVOD for almost everything now – History Hit for history, Docsville for documentaries and Shudder for horror. But how are these younger contenders holding their own against the behemoths? And what makes them think they can go the distance? Fresh off the back of a successful Edinburgh Fringe filming original comedy specials, the team behind NextUp – a fast-growing SVOD for live comedy – think their ‘edge’ has a lot to do with having the right ethos.
And NextUp aren’t alone contributing to the so-called ‘purpose-and-profit economy’ as Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech Nation describes it. According to Tech Nation’s recent report, the ‘tech for social good’ sector was worth £2.3 billion in 2018, with a turnover of £732 million.
Dan Berg, CEO of NextUp says
“We created NextUp because above all we’re comedy fans; we want to be a force for good in an industry we love. This means building a community of artists and members who feel connected to the company and valued for their input. Comedy can be an incredible vehicle for difficult messages and can, we believe, help change the world. We want to accelerate that process.”
The platform champions the most exciting names in stand-up comedy, filming and showcasing their work worldwide via their 5-star rated mobile and TV apps. Comedians include: Tiff Stevenson, Jonathan Pie, Laura Lexx, Jess Fostekew, Hal Cruttenden, Paul Sinha, Bec Hill, Lou Sanders, Njambi McGrath, Tommy Tiernan, Simon Munnery, Daliso Chaponda and many more (full list here).
However, the company’s mission stretches beyond showcasing the best the comedy industry has to offer. NextUp aims to amplify the power and influence of live comedy, allowing its underlying messages a far greater reach, all whilst supporting their artists and the wider standup community.
Positioning themselves as the home of live comedy, NextUp showcases specials which generate awareness of and break taboos around a variety of social issues including mental health, physical disabilities, social exclusion, abuse, and learning disabilities. OCD, infertility, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and anxiety are just some of the subjects touched on by acts featured on the platform.
Trying Laura Lexx’s show on the struggles of facing infertility, is the perfect illustration of this. Laura says “Infertility is a real conversation stopper and I’ve always thought it would be helpful if people could understand it more. It was important to me that Trying didn’t become a mainly sad show with a few jokes thrown in, it needed to be true stand up. So that’s what I wrote…the feedback has been incredible – especially from other people who have experienced anxiety or depression when trying for a baby. Lots of people get in touch when they’ve seen it, and tell me they were not sure about watching it in case it was too close to home but then once they’d seen it, they were so glad they had because the frankness really got to them.”
Changing the face of the industry
Through initiatives such as their recent Grapevine Bursary, NextUp are also aiming to address the gender imbalance in the industry, and promote acts from a range of diverse backgrounds and identities, furthering the reach of standup comedy and giving rising stars their first step on the ladder.
NextUp founder Sarah Henley says: ‘We think that comedy should be for everyone. So with that in mind, our platform needs to reflect experiences and humour from as broad a demographic as possible. We want young comics from all backgrounds who are starting out, to see opportunities for themselves on NextUp and be encouraged to keep going as a result”.
Supporting Live Projects
NextUp are passionate about the impact comedy can have and support projects run by comics on the platform to take their work into the community. Recently NextUp supported the Care Home Tour – where comic and carer Pope Lonergan took a group of clowning comedians (including Helen Duff, Ben Target and Adam Riches) into care homes for people with Alzheimer’s. The project was a great success and NextUp hope to support it and similar projects further in the future.
Building a Community
NextUp have great relationships with the comics on their platform, preserving work that might otherwise be lost, and also creating an additional revenue stream – the acts on NextUp share in its success with 50% of revenue going straight back to them. NextUp also promotes the acts’ live shows to their members and helps them to grow their fanbases.
Like History Hit, who ‘super-serve’ their members with history-themed trips and tours, NextUp
members also have lots of added benefits, with invites to live recordings of shows, the ability to suggest acts for the platform, and they can even become shareholders in the company. By investing in their upcoming Crowdcube round, from as little as £10 members, comics and fans can be part of the change NextUp are driving, and share in their success as the company grows.
NextUp is fast becoming a leader in the field of more mission-driven tech startups – building a company that may not compete with Netflix in terms of budgets and bottom-lines (yet), but certainly does in terms of connection, community and heart…and the fans love it.