Guba takes a gamble: affiliate payments for free accounts

Video site Guba, one of the most interesting players in the space, has released an affiliate program that will pay you 25 cents for every new free (US based) account resulting from a clickthrough of an embedded video on your site. The video doesn’t have to be your own, it just has to be embedded on your web page or blog. Registering for an account lets users upload video, leave comments and subscribe to videos by tag. It’s an intriguing move because account signups themselves make Guba no money. The free video pages don’t have ads on them but are set up to drive people to the low cost premium videos for download to rent or buy.

Guba previously made the news for offering video downloads at a much lower price than competitors, creating a product that hunts copyrighted video online and landing some of the first online distribution deals with major movie studios.

Other startups paying users in the online video space include Revvr and Flixya, though both of those companies are offering 50/50 revenue splits of the AdSense revenue generated from their video pages. That model has its charm and could work well for sites with big stars (like some of the users on YouTube) but seems less appealing for most users and in Flixya it could encourage people to upload video they don’t own so they can profit from AdSense around it. In one sense I’m not sure how different this is than paying people for referrals via embedded video they don’t own (Guba), but that seems more legitimate than wrapping AdSense around someone else’s YouTube video on Flixya.

Guba’s move is a real gamble though. As long as there is no advertising on the video pages, free accounts will not directly generate any money. The site’s business model seems to be based on driving people to the premium downloads section of the site. One day rentals cost between 49 and 99 cents, purchase from five dollars to ten. Will the revenue generated from sales and rentals alone make up for the free accounts that Guba pays affiliates for? Is it a desperate move to generate publicity in the face of YouTube’s huge mindshare in the market?

I think it might work. I think people will display Guba videos and their viewers will sign up for free accounts. I think people want video on demand and a large enough number of them may well use their friendly new neighborhood free video site for premium access. I think this is a great use of startup money and is really ties together one of the smartest online video strategies out there. Now if there was only Mac support!