Video startup Blip has spent the last several years helping independent creators to distribute and monetize their videos across the web. But like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others, it sees a great opportunity to produce some original content of its own. With that in mind, it’s introducing Blip Studios, a production banner that will launch with three exclusive distribution deals.
Blip Studios will work directly with web video producers to help create high-quality original series, which it will then distribute through various partners and channels. The new studio venture will be focused specifically on helping its content partners increase the production value of their shows, and also provide them with assistance around audience development and distribution. In addition, the company is looking to increase monetization of these shows by interfacing with brands around sponsorships and branded content.
Steve Woolf, who joined Blip a few years ago as its VP of Content, has been named President of Blip Studios and SVP of Content. His primary role in the former position was content acquisition and bringing more original producers on board, as well as striking strategic deals with companies like The Collective to distribute their shows through Blip. In the new role, he’ll be leading all content development, production, and strategic relationships with media partners.
According to Woolf, Blip Studios is being very selective about whom it will work with at launch. While it will start with those three, Woolf said he’s looking to sign up another five or six producers over the next few weeks, with plans to have 10 or 12 exclusive deals by the end of the year. The production team will likely look to focus on genres where it’s already pretty strong, such as comedy, sci-fi, and scripted dramas.
The first partners Blip Studios has struck deals with already represent hundreds of millions of views through the Blip platform. They include Nostalgia Critic, a long-running series that features Doug Walker critiquing stuff like television and video games from the 80s and 90s; Nostalgia Chick, a spin-off of that show focused on nostalgic television and movies targeted for women; and Todd in the Shadows, which provides “A Guide to Terrible Pop Songs of the Present and Past.”
Blip has gone through a number of different iterations since being founded in 2005. For a while, it mainly positioned itself as a distribution platform for independent web producers to manage their videos online. It offered up a platform for syndication, and importantly, a sales force to help monetize content that used it to reach audiences online. Then last year, it launched a new destination site aimed at aggregating all the best web originals in one place.
But adding an original production studio doesn’t mean that Blip is pivoting, according to new CEO Kelly Day. She joined from Discovery, where she worked on the digital team, and recently took over the spot vacated by former CEO and founder Mike Hudack. (As a side note, four of the five founding members have left the company: Hudack, Dina Kaplan, and Charles Hope all left last year, and I confirmed that former CTO Justin Day is also out of day-to-day operations, but still remains on the board.)
Anyway, Day believes that successful web video distributors of the future will also need to be content aggregators and content creators as well. That’s certainly a trend we’re seeing with firms like Netflix and Hulu, which recently began making their own programming.
But if anything, Blip’s plans seem to be more along the lines of Next New Networks, which may have begun by producing its own content but eventually ended up recruiting independent producers, which it then provided with production, post-production, audience development, and business development services in exchange for a cut of the ad revenues. Next New was eventually bought by YouTube and has been the foundation for its YouTube Next program for recruiting and training content creators in the fine arts of improving video production and increasing audience.
Blip has raised a total of $24 million over the past several years. That includes $6 million raised in December, from existing investors Bain Capital and Canaan Partners. Revenues in 2011 were about $10 million, which the company plans to double this year.
Blip is the place to discover original web series, from professional and up-and-coming producers. It offers viewers free access to a wide variety of dramas, comedies, arts, sports and other shows. For producers, Blip provides a free suite of tools to host, distribute, and monetize their web series.