Like all players in the entertainment industry, the Just for Laughs Group has had a “painful” year 2020, explains its Chairman and CEO, Charles Décarie. The company, which oversees the world’s largest comedy festival, told Press the strategies that allow him to envision the future as his mascot Victor would do: with a smile.
A hybrid festival, and fast!
On Tuesday, Juste pour rire announced that its popular comedy festival will indeed take place from July 15 to 31, 2021, whether in the streets, indoors or virtually. If the organizers are confident, it is because they were among the first to develop a large-scale digital offer from the start of the pandemic. Last April, Juste pour rire (JPR) announced the postponement of its festival to the fall and the creation of the FSTVL HAHAHA, four days of broadcasting paid shows online, from May 28 to 31, 2020. “It was a prototype to cut your teeth with a new medium. More than 25,000 people came to see us ”, rejoices Charles Décarie, CEO of the Just for Laughs Group. This 100% Quebec warming laid the foundations for a 38e unique hybrid festival, from September 29 to October 10. This time, an international and bilingual 10-day program attracted some 800,000 Internet users. It is with this experience in hand that the team is preparing its next international meeting. Federal aid of 1.3 million announced Tuesday will also allow the festival to solidify its digital offer and preserve hundreds of jobs. “We quickly said to ourselves: ‘We are maintaining our festivals, whether in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver or Sydney.’ Rather than canceling, we’re going to re-engineer, redesign to adapt to new market conditions and new health conditions. ”
The big promises of the small screen
The pandemic hit JPR hard, which was experiencing its second crisis in less than five years, the first having been caused by the fall of Gilbert Rozon, targeted by allegations of sexual assault in 2017. “We lost 60% of our income in 2020 and we put 75% of our workforce out, says Mr. Décarie. All of our live productions have been canceled. The hecatomb was painful. We asked ourselves: “How are we going to generate new income?” The group, now controlled by Bell and evenko, has found part of the answer in television productions. “We have radically increased the production of our programs. We did a few of them, mostly recordings of shows that we sold to broadcasters. We went into creation mode for original programs, which we went to pitch to major networks such as Bell, Radio-Canada, Corus, TVA and others. The goal was to continue to keep our artists busy and to make humorous content. This was our first spearhead in the year 2020. ”Five new projects were thus born on the small screen the same year as the virus: My next stand-up (Noovo), Tightrope (Z), The evenings carte blanche (Noovo), Cultivate your comic (ICI Tou.tv) and Humor Resources (CBC). “In 2020, we did everything except be unemployed. This allowed us to hire more than 500 Quebec and Canadian artists. ”
Beyond its TV offering, the Just for Laughs Group has taken a closer look at the “monetization” of content on social networks, in particular YouTube and Facebook. “We have to go get a portion of those dollars,” insists Mr. Décarie. His team now manages around fifteen YouTube channels. “We have it in the United States, in Japan, in Dubai… This is content produced in Quebec, followed in total by 35 million people. The Just For Laughs Gags videos, grouped under Las Mejores Bromas or Just For Laughs Gags Arabic, collect millions of views. Canada’s most popular comedy channel, Just For Laughs Gags alone, has 11 million subscribers. Some 7,000 videos have been watched over 6.5 billion times, or almost one click per Terran. No wonder Just for Laughs wanted to continue filming the show, broadcast in over 150 countries, last summer in Montreal. In addition to social networks, JPR relies on listening platforms such as SiriusXM, Pandora and Spotify. “For us, it is another source of dissemination of Canadian culture. We recorded comedians from here in performance and we broadcast them continuously. »Thanks to its online deployment, JPR is reaching the international market more than ever, particularly the French-speaking communities in Africa and Europe.
Create for the web
According to Charles Décarie, festivals and events that broadcast on the web must imperatively think their content accordingly. “The simple distribution of shows online is not enough for a cultural organization to survive. Everyone does that: the OSM, the theaters, etc. The great observation we have made is that in order to survive and to continue to expand, a cultural company must transform itself into digital technology. There must not only be a broadcast of the shows, but there must also be hybrid events and content produced for the web specifically. It is a particular medium, which has its own dynamic, its own clientele. The CEO of the Just for Laughs Group emphasizes that some comedians simply do not master the codes of digital broadcasting. “On the other hand, I notice that there are children of the web, like Norman in France or Mathieu Dufour in Quebec. These are stars who are used to not getting immediate feedback from the public except from a cat feeding them. It is with this kind of humorists that JPR wishes to conquer a new audience, young and international. In the years to come, “we will persevere in all these innovations for the dissemination of Quebec and Canadian culture through online mediums,” concludes Mr. Décarie.