How is blip.tv different from other online video sites?
We like to say that blip.tv is what NBC would look like if it were created in 2005 rather than 1939. Think about a pyramid of content with Hulu owning the top and YouTube owning the bottom. Blip.tv owns the middle.
We work with independent producers. Blip.tv provides the player and the bandwidth and distributes the videos to places like YouTube, iTunes and to TV sets through Roku, Sony TV and other places. Then we monetize the series by aggregating, say, 50-100 shows that reach moms, and then selling space to an advertiser that wants to target that demographic. And then we share 50 percent of the revenue with show producers.
Just the other day we were excited to send a check to a producer for $123,000, which means we will make about half a million dollars this year for that series. I think that really shows that you can create a Web series that’s scalable and profitable and we’re really excited to be part of the ecosystem making that possible.
What impact are new platforms like blip.tv having on television content? Is the nature of storytelling changing or is it just the same old stories distributed in new ways?
It’s been interesting for us to watch that what succeeds on the Web is different from what succeeds on traditional television. So far, what works on the Web is authenticity, going after a niche market, and really engaging with the community that you serve.
One show that’s doing really well on blip.tv is called Nostalgia Critic. It’s really just a guy with a camera who talks about pop culture from the ‘80s. The production value is not super high.
If you love pop culture from the ‘80s, you’ll love this show. If you don’t, you’ll hate this show. He’s not trying to be all things for all people but he really engages people interested in that topic.
You’ll find that the best show producers are active on Twitter, on Tumblr, on Facebook and they really listen to the community that the show serves and incorporate their feedback into the show.
Contrast that with traditional TV, where you won’t succeed if you don’t reach a mass audience. And production values may trump authenticity.
We saw you speak at the Supernova Conference in Philadelphia last month where you suggested that media companies should act more like startups. How so?
I’m talking specifically about the digital side of a media company. If you’re running the digital side for, say, a magazine, I think you could do your job with a few really good technologists and a few curators of content; we’ll call them the editorial team. They oversee the production of some content but also curate content along whichever vertical it is that the magazine caters to.
That means becoming the aggregator for all of the best bloggers on that topic, the best folks who are creating photos – maybe on Flickr or Shutterstock – and the folks who are creating the best Web series on that subject, whether it’s through blip.tv or Howcast or another platform.
I think this offers a lot of benefits for the media company. It keeps their overhead a lot lower. And it means that they’re not banking everything on their production crew having to create all the content on their site.
And then you’ll obviously need sales people and to make sure that all the content on the site – curated and produced – is as high quality as possible so that you maintain very high CPMs.
You recently joined forces with 7-Eleven to produce a branded reality show, The 7-Eleven Roadtrip Rally. Do you see branded entertainment playing a bigger role in the future of television?
We don’t do a lot of brand entertainment on blip.tv. We had a really special opportunity to coordinate a deal between one of our producers and 7-Eleven, which did very well in terms of viewership, but that’s a rarity for us. We’re not really in the production business.
I think branded entertainment has the opportunity to do well but it’s absolutely key that any series that’s going to succeed on the Web understands the audience that it’s targeting and serves that audience.
It’s also important that a new series comes with marketing dollars just as a traditional TV show would. There’s a bias in this nascent field of Web series that a great series will just take off and gain audience immediately.
Independent show producers are often happy to build up an audience over time and iterate on the show. A brand that’s spending a lot of money on a series might have a little less patience.
The blip.tv website seems to be aimed at content producers, not consumers. Do you have any plans to make blip.tv more of a hub for great independent Web series?
Right. Our website is not as beautiful and easy to navigate as it could be and we are well aware of that. Right now, blip.tv is not a destination site. The site is catered to making it easy for producers to upload content, choose advertising options and then distribute the show.
In the future we do see an opportunity to turn blip.tv into a destination site, but we haven’t yet.
When producers upload their shows to blip they’re given the choice of participating in your advertising program or keeping the content commercial-free. Are we at the stage where both producers and viewers are comfortable with the idea of ads in their online videos?
I think we’re way past the days of 2005 and 2006 when show producers and audiences weren’t expecting to see ads on shows.
Viewers are savvy enough to come to expect it, not just through us but the myriad of other platforms that have ads showing on video. People can handle them just as they can handle ads on television.
You still have some people who create shows as a form of artwork but whereas that was most of the community of show producers in 2005, it’s now very much a minority.
It’s now possible to create an original online series that’s both scalable and profitable. So I think a lot of folks who may have been focused on traditional media in the past are looking toward the Web as a place where they could make money without really having a boss or anyone having a say over their content.