Audience Development Specialist Alphabird Acquires Video Distribution Startup Castfire

Brands, agencies, and niche content creators rely on audience development firm Alphabird to help them get more video views across a wide range of publisher partners. Now clients will be able to get better distribution and access to a number of new connected devices, thanks to the acquisition of video management and distribution startup Castfire.

Alphabird basically helps grow audience for its clients, guaranteeing brands, agencies, and content creators a certain number of views. It works across a wide range of premium web publishers to drive traffic back to videos that customers want to promote. It’s basically productized viral video, charging clients only when a video is watched (cost per view) or watched to completion (cost per completed view).

As for Castfire? It’s a pretty standard video publishing platform, built in the same vein as the Brightcoves and Ooyalas of the world. It was founded in 2004 and got a lot of early play with producers of original online videos, as it was used by clients like Next New Networks and Revision3 back in the day. (I still remember the day I first met CEO Brian Walsh in San Francisco back in 2008 — I was living in New York at the time — and he demoed how Castfire was being used to distribute videos for Ask A Ninja.) More recently, it’s been used as the distribution and management platform for some CBS Interactive properties. But it never really got the wide adoption of some other platforms.

Alphabird is mostly buying the technology and tech team — all engineering employees from Castfire will be joining the company — as a way to better support its clients. Alphabird president Alex Rowland told me by phone that Castfire has a pretty robust set of APIs for hooking into other content management systems, as well as an engine for recommending other videos that viewers can watch. Castfire also has some cool multiplatform capabilities, as it pertains to delivering videos to the iPad, Roku streaming boxes, or connected TV platforms. That will allow Alphabird to get more client videos watched, and on a wider range of devices. It could also open up more of a market for Alphabird to step beyond its historical customer base of brands and agencies, and to serve more video publishers, as they seek to boost video views on their own sites.

This is actually the third acquisition that Alphabird has made over the past year or so. Last November it bought social video platform Media Social to drive consumer engagement and interactivity for its clients. And in May 2012, Alphabird bought PlaceVine’s Brand Integration Platform to automate the integration of web video content and brand messaging. Alphabird also recently introduced its own production studio for branded entertainment and original content — content that Castfire can help distribute to new platforms.

Both startups are based in San Francisco, and together the combined firm will have a total of about 45 employees. Rowland says that Alphabird has been profitable since its first quarter of operations, but recently it’s taken a small amount of growth capital. (According to an SEC filing, that includes $1.9 million raised in April.) But it could raise more money later this year to further accelerate growth.