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HQ Trivia: Broadcaster's Multi-Million $ Opportunity

Noticed people sneak out of the office (or - depending on the timezone - out of bed) twice a day to pull out their phones? Chances are they're playing HQ Trivia (download on iOSGoogle Play), a live trivia app played for real money. For the uninitiated, I'll quickly run through the app and its history. If you're familiar, feel free to skip ahead as we explore how broadcasters can learn from Trivia HQ to create engaging, live omni-channel content in a world that's increasingly on-demand.

What is Trivia HQ?

HQ Trivia is a TV-style live game show presented through a mobile application that's free to download and play on both the iOS and Android platforms. It originates from Intermedia Labs, the startup formed by two of Vine's founders, Colin Kroll and Rus Yusupov.

At set times each day, up to 1,6 million participants simultaneously 'tune in' for a 15 minute show in which they are shown a series of multiple choice questions with only 10 seconds to answer. Get a question right? You're on the next one. Get it wrong or run out of time? You're out, unless you have 'Extra Lives', which you can earn when others sign up for the game using your referral code (mine's RikH81, since you asked).

If and when someone manages to get all 12 questions right, they'll win that session's cash prize. If more than one person manages to get all 12 questions right, they share the prize equally. In the rare case that nobody manages to correctly answer all questions, the prize rolls over to the next session where it'll be added to the pot.

Prizes can be cashed out using Paypal and currently stand around 2-3000$ per session, but in the weekends payouts can hit 20000$+

When you miss the start of the show or when you drop out for missing a question, you can still watch the stream to see how the remaining participants are doing. The app features a live chat which honestly is more of a distraction: Swipe left to hide that.

Why is HQ Trivia so successful?

Real Winnings

Even though there has been some controversy about the chances you'll actually be able to cash out your winnings (which has recently been addressed in a highly effective manner), there's still the chance of winning real money in a game that's completely free to install and play.

Referral Viral Loop

There's a rather in-your-face viral loop enabled by a referral code mechanic, that incentivizes users to invite as many of their friends, colleagues and acquaintances as possible. These - in turn - will need to invite others if they want some much-coveted Extra Lives.

The Power of Appointment Gaming

Through its system of fixed times, mobile application notifications and the relatively short amount of time required to participate, HQ Trivia is conditioning its participants to make the game part of their 'routine'. Playing it quickly becomes a habit, which is an incredibly powerful retention mechanic.

Playing Alone, Together

Even though it's something you play alone on your phone, HQ Trivia is definitely a communal experience. Alongside anecdotes about families and offices huddling together to jointly play the game, the live chat, player numbers in the app and hosts' regular shout-outs to the public make it feel like you're part of something larger.

Live Video and On-Camera Talent

HQ Trivia has several hosts, but its best known - and most popular - is Scott Rogowsky. Always impeccably dressed, this relatively unknown comedian has an uncanny ability to riff on whatever subject is touched upon in the questions. The way in which he and the other hosts manage to create a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere is a big part of the attraction of the game. Also, he's a star at stalling for time whenever technical issues require him to do so:


The HQ Trivia Opportunity for Broadcasters

Key observations

  • A linear gameshow through mobile devices can pull in a (massive) crowd, without having to rely on expensive user acquisition practices that are common in 'traditional' mobile gaming;
  • The technological and economical barriers to entry for the operator of a 'HQ Trivia-like' application are relatively low thanks to massive advances in cloud-computing and video encoding. The pay-as-you-go model for most of the technology necessary means that even a wildly successful application would only need to pay for 15-20 minutes a day of peak concurrency. By the time that starts to become a sizeable expenditure, you'll have the audience to effectively monetize;
  • The barrier to use by the public is so low, that any sizable userbase will quickly lead to such a concurrency of highly engaged users, that they'll provide a massive opportunity for monetization through sponsorships and advertising;
  • Broadcasters are exceptionally positioned to leverage their relationship with the audience and with advertisers. You're further set up for success through the amplifying effect of app store rankings tied to the (probable) geographical concentration of your audience and your ability to cross-sell.


  • Put together a team of seasoned application developers and experts on (live) OTT video to hack together a proof of concept on a proven cloud platform like AWS or Google Cloud;
  • Copy the format. Copy the layout, copy the notifications, get some good hosts (dust off some quiz-TV talent from a couple of years back) and use a similar schedule. It works. Don't reinvent the wheel, your strengths will come into play further down the list;
  • Leverage your unique promotional opportunities by pushing the app during popular traditional TV shows and unsold ad inventory;
  • Monetize by tapping into your existing ad-sales capabilities, offering advertisers the opportunity to brand single episodes or entire themed weeks. Keep in mind that it needs to fit into the format organically, so having the host talk about the advertiser and maybe doing some logo-slapping will work, but cutting away to a commercial is likely to lead to loss of online users;
  • Leverage recognizable on-screen talent to generate additional interest by having them guest-host episodes;
  • Cross-promote the application by tying themed questions into your regular scheduled programming (ea. "Find a teaser for Tomorrow's question #9 during the next episode of Big Sister, airing at 9 tonight!"). Keep in mind, you don't want to tie actually playing the game to a simultaneous linear broadcast on your regular channel (as tempting as this might be when you start seeing usage numbers run up). A big part of the strength of the format lies in the users' ability to play wherever they are and whatever else they're doing;
  • Keep friction to a minimum. When you're starting to become successful, your ad sales guys will tell you that you'd better be able to monetize the userbase if you had some info on participants. Before you know it, signing up turns from a simple 'fill out your phone number' to a 20-question survey. In sign-up, as well as in usage, you want to minimize friction. Make it as easy as possible to just pick up your phone and join in, wherever, whenever. Your data-hungry marketers and sales-executives will get their day to shine, because;
  • You can gather a ton of intelligence on your userbase if you keep track of their answers. Gather data from day one (it'll be relatively cheap, because: cloud) and as you become more successful, point some intelligence towards that pile of data to turn it into insights. "Which of these cars goes from 0-60 faster?" (answered correctly? probably a gear-head). "How much does the average person from this country spend on groceries per week?" (their answer is likely to tell you something about their own spending habits). The possibilities here really are only limited by your own creativity.

Divitel and Broadcasting

For over two decades, Divitel has been the partner of choice for an ever-growing number of video and TV businesses around the globe. With a crew of 50+ highly motivated Divi-talents, we’ve gone from designing and building, to fully managing video delivery systems for broadcasters and other businesses in the video and television industry. From our headquarters in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands and branch offices in Curacao and Germany, we work tirelessly to improve the economics of video delivery for these clients. Meet us at MWC in Barcelona or Cable Congress in Dublin to discuss OTT video deliverymanaged automated testingvideo and TV monetization consultancy and more.

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