French media entrepreneur Serge Hayat, a shareholder in Federation Entertainment and Echo Studio, has boarded Rocambole, a subscription-based European literary streaming platform boasting serialized original novels.
The service, whose layout looks similar to Netflix, launched in June 2020 and already showcases more than 200 titles across different genres, written by a pool of more than 30 largely up-and-coming authors who are working in writers’ rooms.
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So far, Rocambole has 120,000 subscribers, and the number of users has been rising by 20% every month since March 2020, said Julien Simon, who comes from the publishing sector and co-founded Rocambole with François Delporte, Camille Pichon and Boris Duda. Prior to Hayat joining as a founder, Rocambole raised €350,000 ($403,670) from the banking institution BPI France and several business angels. The service is looking to make another funding round in early 2022.
“The numbers took off during the lockdown and they have continued growing steadily, which proves that we’re tapping into a real demand,” said Simon, adding that the service is primarily targeting millennials. So far the readership is skewed towards women.
Rocambole has a freemium model priced at €50 per year, which also allows users who participate in app-based games and engage in social media activities, to benefit from free access. “It’s a model that has worked well in manga and video games,” said Simon.
Rocambole owns IP to all the serialized novels ranging from romance to crime, period, science fiction, sports, cuisine, non-fiction, social themes and other viral topics. The platform has assembled a dedicated team looking at hot topics and forecasting trends to come up with relevant concepts in a quick turnaround. For instance, when the Netflix mini-series “The Queen’s Gambit” went viral, Rocambole was able to pull out a chess-themed show almost immediately and draw big numbers, pointed out Simon. And when “Lupin” came out, Rocambole published a serialized adaptation of a novel written by “Arsene Lupin” author Maurice Leblanc.
“I’ve been thinking for a while that the creation of IP has become crucial, and I was immediately attracted by the disruptive approach of Rocambole, which fits the way that people read content these days, mostly outside of their homes and in public transportation,” said Hayat, who’s invested — either directly or indirectly — more than €200 million in 500 films, including “Intouchables,” “Heartbreaker,” as well as series such as “En Therapie.”
“Each literary series is a collaborative effort between several writers and editors who develop the narrative threads and characters, so everything is extremely well thought-out, sharp and concise: the episode take three to five minutes to read and ends with a cliffhanger,” explained Hayat.
The executive said that, during a period where the demand for scripted content is skyrocketing, Rocambole’s large library of original IP is a gold mine for producers, broadcasters and streamers.
Rocambole can also be used by producers to promote select movies. For instance, with “Bye Bye Morons,” Albert Dupontel’s Cesar-winning film with Virginie Efira, Rocambole created serialized content with testimonies about the making of the movie, in partnership with Dupontel, the producer Catherine Bozorgan and Gaumont. The non-fiction content offering also includes testimonies from Jean de La Rochebrochard, a successful start-up investor who founded Kima Ventures, Christophe Pinna, the karate champion; the deputy Mickaël Nogal, and Cécile Reinaud, founder of the brand Séraphine.
The service has also enlisted several well-known authors, including Jacques Expert who specializes in crime, detective stories, and wrote for Rocambole “Cinq minutes avant de mourir, ils étaient encore vivants”; Sophie Jomain (“Étoiles de Noss Head”), who adapted “La Belle est la Bête” for the platform; Elisabeth Reynaud, who portrays inspiring women; and Vincent Hauuy, who specializes in French thrillers, and wrote “Canadian Werewolf” for Rocambole.
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