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Gillian Tan, founder of Clicknetwork.

Gillian Tan

Founder of Clicknetwork
Mar 25, 2017 5:50 AM

There is something to be said about reality shows when the most powerful man in the world used to star in one himself.

Like it or not, it's here to stay and for the past decade, Gillian Tan has been grooming the Kardashians of Singapore on Clicknetwork, which she started in 2007.

Since establishing its channel on YouTube in 2011, Clicknetwork has produced more than 1000 videos that span a wide range of subjects from beauty to food, life hacks to shopping, and more.

Influencers like Xiaxue, Oon Shu An, Jemma Wei and Rosalind Pho helm their own shows - all unscripted.

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Just earlier this month, Clicknetwork made history as the first homegrown YouTube channel to amass a million subscribers, earning a Gold Play Buttonfor its efforts.

To think it all started unplanned when Girls Out Loud, a reality show Tan was then producing for MediaCorp, got yanked after some viewers complained it was too risque.

"It was considered a bit too controversial back then," she says, "(But) I ended up going on a road trip with the hosts of the show, Rosalyn Lee and Wendy Cheng (Xiaxue), and along the way I filmed their antics on my video camera."

When Ms Tan got home, she uploaded some of the clips online onto clicknetwork.tv. The rest, as they say, is history.

What were some of the challenges you faced when you first started the Clicknetwork channel?

Getting people to understand what I was doing was the initial challenge. At that time, the only thing people associated with YouTube or online content was low quality cat videos. Many people didn't understand the concept of producing shows specifically for the Internet. It took a while to get people watching. But I think the audience grew because it was something refreshing and so different from traditional TV. On the business side, it was near impossible to get any paying client because online video advertising wasn't a thing back then. The question I used to get asked all the time was, "How do you make money from this?". I don't get asked that so much now. There was nothing much I could do to convince clients to jump on board back then, except to prove that I could make it worth their while. It took patience and persistence to build up the channel and grow the following over the years. Once we had the eyeballs, it was a lot easier to court the clients.

How much has the TV viewing landscape changed since you started Clicknetwork? Are you finding it easier to convert older people who might not be used to watching videos on the internet to give Clicknetwork a try?

When we first started back in 2007 it was mainly teenagers watching, but now our viewers have broadened to include people up to their 30s. There are older people that watch Clicknetwork as well, but the bulk of our viewers are 30-somethings and younger. Most of our viewers hardly watch traditional TV anymore, and have grown up getting their entertainment, news etc online. So the TV viewing landscape here in Singapore has definitely changed, especially among the younger people.

Is the internet going to be the future of TV? Will TV stations and broadcasters eventually become a thing of the past?

No, I don't believe TV stations and broadcasters will be a thing of the past. They will still be around but they will evolve - they have to in order to survive. The Internet has revolutionised the way people consume media, so traditional methods of broadcasting will need to evolve to stay relevant.

Tell us how does Clicknetwork conceptualise its shows?

We look at trends, what our viewers seem to like, and then brainstorm ideas. A large part of it is also gut feel because there is no formula to follow. The online space is ever-changing and highly unpredictable, so sometimes you don't know if a show will work until you put it out there. We have to make sure that the format, content, and host are advertiser-friendly. Ultimately, a show can only sustain if it is profitable, so that is a major consideration for us.

Have there even been any program ideas or concepts that were too wild or too difficult to execute?

We had a show years ago called Numbnuts. It involved the two male hosts competing in a crazy challenge every episode, and the loser would suffer an even crazier punishment. We had to stop the show because it was getting too difficult to find ideas that were extreme yet would not endanger them. Also, it was impossible to get any advertisers to buy into the show.

What's next for Clicknetwork - are there plans to move away from reality shows and do something scripted or in a different language?

In terms of content, unscripted shows have been our specialty so we will probably stick to that genre. However, we may come up with some new concepts. Apart from continuing to grow our channel, we are also looking at related offline businesses.

What's a typical day like for you?

I don't think I have a typical day! The great thing about this job is the unpredictability and constant variety.

What kind of TV shows do you enjoy?

For TV shows, I like scripted comedies and dramas. House of Cards is one of my favourites.

A lot of people de-stress by turning on their TV - do you do the same?

I hardly turn on the TV because I watch everything on my laptop. But I do watch YouTube or surf online to de-stress.

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