More than one million people access the HQ Trivia app at peak times to be part of the live streamed quiz show. For founder and CEO Rus Yusupov, interactive content is the key to good entertainment and a successful advertising message. He tells me how this works in an interview.
How did the idea for HQ Trivia come about?
My co-founder, Colin, and I have always loved movies and TV. We see the movies and TV shows of our childhood as a way to bring people together – and at a time when very few things are bringing people together, we think entertainment is more important than ever.
After creating Vine, we started experimenting with how to evolve the kind of traditional entertainment we loved by making it interactive and participatory.
We built a platform called Hype and prototyped different shows with various levels of interactivity. The shows that gained most traction usually contained a gameplay element, so we started developing game/show hybrids and landed on the concept for HQ. We think HQ is the first of many interactive and community building formats that will attract and resonate with audiences.
Were you surprised by the sudden success?
Seeing a product you dreamed up bring millions of people joy and delight is both surprising and enormously satisfying. When we first created HQ, we tested it with a very small group of people and had a hunch it would be popular but wanted to understand what worked, what didn’t work, and how to make it better. We may have been right about our hunch, but still nothing can quite prepare you for when your product goes viral.
Also in Germany you now have a big fan base. When was the last time you were in Germany and why?
This will be my first time in Germany! I am very excited for the trip, and I hope to meet some local HQ enthusiasts! Before we launched the UK show, we saw a loyal German audience developing and joining our US shows, one of which aired at 3am local time! It was inspiring to see people so committed to our games (even in the middle of the night!), but I’m glad we’re now able to air shows during more optimal times for our German fans, with content that is relevant and customized for them.
At SXSW we missed you, how come you’re playing at DMEXCO and what do you expect from the event?
I really love attending conferences and learning how other innovators are thinking and what they’re working on, but for an entrepreneur, time is scarce. Scaling a product, building a company around that product, and strategizing for a next product, takes up most of my time these days. So, when I do attend a conference, it’s to be exposed to thinkers and ideas that are hyper relevant to what we’re working on at HQ. Right now, we’re focused on growing our business and DMEXCO is where the experts gather to share and debate these kinds of ideas. I’m looking forward to everything I’m going to learn.
HQ Trivia is a prime example of interactive entertainment on demand. Will HQ Trivia replace classic TV shows in the future? And in which direction do you think the TV industry is developing?
Traditional TV viewership has been down year for year for the last several years. Viewers, particularly from younger demographics, have been abandoning TV for SVOD and digital platforms for content that is convenient and curated. Service providers and digital platforms have focused on providing content catered to the individual. From targeted ads to binge functionality, entertainment is becoming more and more personalized. What is special about HQ is that people are scheduling their days around playing. It is not about convenience; it is about a shared experience, much like back in the day of must-see TV. At HQ, we believe that the future of TV is shared and synchronous, but only if you evolve content with interactivity to make it worth it.
And how do users react to brand messages within the app?
As I have said, we are committed to evolving entertainment by making it interactive and participatory. We also believe in developing our business model in parallel to support advertising that is interactive and participatory in nature. We are beginning by collaborating with brands and writing brand-related content into our shows to make it feel high quality, organic, and fun. We are still experimenting, but our players seem open to this higher-fidelity advertising since it gives them a role and requires no personal user data. I am excited to keep innovating ways to make the experience of HQ even more valuable for brands and fun for our players.