Web video firm Blip has raised US$12m in funding this year, as well as appointing a new CEO and launching its own studio division. CEO Kelly Day tells Andrew McDonald what’s next.
Since launching in 2005, Blip’s business has shifted with the rising tide of professionally produced online content. Once an open video platform called Blip TV, the firm rebranded this year and is now focused on hosting and distributing curated, high-quality web series.
CEO Kelly Day, who joined the US-based company from Discovery in April, tells C21: “In the early days it was, frankly, not unlike YouTube, where you could just go and upload your content and we would sell advertising against it. As the market has matured, and as we’ve got bigger, we’ve shifted our focus to more truly build a consumer brand.”
Part of that brand-building process involves keeping a close eye on the types of content that are being added to the service, says Day. Not only for viewers, but in order to “effectively create a safe environment for advertisers.”
Although the firm has fewer content creators uploading to the site than in its previous incarnation, the firm still counts “close to 3,000 producers” as partners and has seen the quality of its content get “significantly better” over time. There is also a growing pool of content from which to pick.
“Over the course of the summer, and the last 90 days, we had 17,000 people upload. So there is a huge amount of interest,” claims Day, who cites the League of Super Critics series and content from videogame-inspired video producer Rooster Teeth, based in Austin, Texas, as current programming highlights.
With sites like Hulu, Yahoo!, AOL and, perhaps most significantly, YouTube all investing in original web content, the web video space has come of age. Yet with Blip keen to distribute content across the web (to sites and services such as iTunes, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), as well as establish itself as a destination in its own right, the rise of online content presents opportunities as well as competition.
“We view YouTube as a very broad, robust distribution partner and we believe in using its platform to build great audiences. But it’s not surprising that we do, to some extent, compete with it. There are some content creators out there who view Blip as an incremental distribution platform to YouTube, or in some cases an alternative distribution platform to YouTube,” says Day.
Although she says that YouTube’s 100 original channels scheme, launched in the US last year to attract professional content creators to the site, does compete with Blip “for audience, and perhaps for ad dollars,” she claims that YouTube is helping to highlight the potential of online video.
“Everybody now knows that original web video is not linear TV that has been brought to digital platforms, and it’s definitely not user-generated. This is a whole new form of storytelling where you’ve got really creative, independent producers who are developing whole new ways of telling stories, and they’re doing it for digital platforms first,” says Day.
“YouTube can take some credit for that because it certainly raised the profile of this type of content with the investment that it’s made. But I am a big believer that this is just the beginning. I don’t think that their initial investment is anywhere close to what we’re going to see over the next three to five years in terms of an entire market developing.”
In line with this, Blip launched its own studios arm in LA this year to work directly with brands, talent and independent producers to develop and produce high-quality, original web series – funded in part by the US$12m in venture capital the firm raised this year from existing investors including Bain Capital Ventures and Canaan Partners.
“Branded entertainment and branded content have really become a key focus for us,” says Day, who claims there has been a “huge amount of interest” from ad agencies in the US.
In terms of growth, Blip is also looking to pay more attention to markets outside the US. “There’s a good likelihood that as we go into 2013 we will concentrate more on Western Europe in particular,” says Day.
“I don’t think we could manage it well from the US; we would perhaps consider hiring a couple of folks in London and maybe using that as our home base. But, again, we still have a little bit of leg work to do to figure out exactly what markets to focus on.”
Day cites the content potential in markets such as France, Germany and Italy, as well as the UK. Yet with the market for online video set to only grow in the coming years, it’s unlikely the opportunities will stop there.