By and large Kugan Cassius has a lot to be pleased about. In the boxing world, his brain-child IFL TV is doing great business at the boxing Box Office. The box office being clicks on the IFL Youtube channel.
I remember when he started this enterprise about 7 or 8 years ago, many in the boxing world didn’t know what to make of what he was doing. Basically he just showed up to press conferences, fight announcements and fight weeks and started interviewing everyone and anyone related to the event. Traditional media sources looked on with a mixture of amusement and bemusement to this approach to fight coverage. Importantly and rather stupidly they didn’t react to his innovation.
Kugan was the future as it turns out. Kugan and Michelle Joy Phelps of ‘Behind the Gloves’ started working in a method that brought the fight world directly and unvarnishedly (if thats a word!) into your living room. Scratch that – into your smart-phone. Turns out the fans don’t want glossy productions and set piece interviews. Turns out they don’t want 15 second sound bites coming to you directly from an army of publicists.
Today Kugan Cassius is probably to boxing what Ariel Helwani is to MMA. He is the biggest star in the boxing media world and I do not say that lightly. He isn’t as polished Ariel, but in terms of his UK and Irish audiences that is probably a decidedly good thing. He speaks a language his audience understands and that again is a very good thing.
However the purpose of this article is not to point all of this out, most of you already know it or have a sense of it, the interesting point is that this model is probably going to change and like everything in the online realm change pretty soon. Two days ago Kuggan interviewed Tyson Fury for IFL and as usual Tyson was relaxed and his usual entertaining self. What caught my attention was at the end, as Kuggan was wrapping their chat. He made a point of saying on camera that Tyson Fury was no longer allowing his father John Fury to be interviewed. To which Tyson responded.
” Yep. No more Interviews with John Fury for any of you guys. Any cameramen or Interviewers. If you want him – TV gold. You gotta pay “
As he said it, I thought you smart, smart bastard. Because he is right – John Fury is YouTube gold. His interviews and commentary clips regularly get viewed in the hundreds of thousands. He is funny, frank and straight to the point. He calls people out and organisations out on the Bullshit that he sees going on in the boxing world. This is the genius of the IFL platform – you would never get away with airing it on a TV network. Too many executives shitting in their pants. But the problem that Kuggan and the rest will face is that the gold in future will have a price. Whether it is John Fury or anyone else.
The bottom line in all of this is that Kuggan or IFL are getting paid on the clicks. They are attracting advertisers based on the John Fury’s of this world. If you have a quick scan of the above picture you can see that IFL has over 400,000 subscribers and nearly 600,000,000 video views. That translates into big income in the form of direct advertising revenue from Youtube but also in terms of the sponsors that you are able to attract. In Kuggan’s case he is teamed up with MTK Global and International Bookmakers William Hill. The fact MTK Global represent fighters and are a boxing promotion themselves helps enormously in terms of getting access to interview material…i.e. Fighters.
Today, the IFL platform can argue that it provides a huge service to boxers, coaches and promoters in terms of publicity. However what it can’t argue about is that in total numbers only a very small percentage of the interviews they do break the threshold of 50,000 hits. In other words they don’t make money. John Fury makes money and no better man than Tyson Fury to point this out to them. Tyson himself makes money for IFL as his Interviews are also very popular, but without saying it in words, acknowledges he is getting paid in terms of IFL helping to promote his fights. I admire that it was his Dad he made the point about, he could have easily and selfishly made it about himself. The other side of course is that Tyson Fury is represented by MTK Global at a management level.
Another who does huge Box Office on the IFL platform is Dillian Whyte. When I’m bored, my guilty pleasure is to re-watch Dillian Whyte Interviews. Whyte though has obviously figured this out and recently started to produce his own content on Youtube. I doubt that this will be as successful because it disregards the exceptional talents of Kugan Cassius and also Michelle Joy Phelps.
Kugan in particular, brings a lot to the table, he has this languid, informal style that puts interviewees at ease, while always gently steering the conversation in the direction it needs to go. He is not afraid to ask questions and also seems to have an unusual trait often lacking in media professionals. He doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. The audience certainly respond in greater numbers when Kugan is the one behind the microphone on a video.
The crux of the matter is this. In the future the high performers on a platform are going to increasingly want to get paid. Whether that’s a Heavyweight contender like Dillian Whyte or an ordinary bloke like John Fury who just happens to have fathered the best Heavyweight on the planet. Do they deserve it? – I say yes.
In addition to the hits they generate on the original platform they get interviewed on – another curious phenomenon takes place.
It is one that rises all media boats. When I happen upon an interesting piece of content like say – a John Fury Interview – What do I do?
I start looking for more of the same content. I dare say that is what you do to. So instead of watching one interview on the IFL platform and moving on to the next one, It is more likely I will type ‘John Fury’ into YouTube and start looking for more content on related platforms. So a good piece of work Kugan Cassius does on IFL also has a knock on benefit to any other platform that has interviewed him in the past. So it is not surprising that the ‘star’ should want to get his piece of the pie.
I suppose I have more than a passing interest in this as someone who produces content. In over two years of writing I can happily report that I have made the princely sum of 254 euros. I might buy a tropical island.
The problem I have is one that isn’t easily overcome and to be honest I knew it from the beginning. All my content is in written format and in Today’s world that’s as big a No No as you can get. The younger generation (anyone under 30) consumes the vast majority of their content in video format. Whether that is News, Sports or entertainment.
The question for on-line video platforms in future becomes – Can the platforms afford to compensate the stars that strike gold for them?. And if they can’t what will happen?. Most probably a bigger and more traditional media outlet will buy up all these independents. But if that happens you risk losing what made the IFL’s of the world successful in the first place.
It will be interesting to see how this develops because it most certainly will.