JW Player Raises $20M To Help Video Publishers Look Beyond YouTube

JW Player, the company behind the video player of the same name, is announcing it has raised $20 million in Series C funding.

Even if you haven’t heard of the company, you’ve probably watched videos delivered through its player, as its customers include TripAdvisor, IMDB, The Guardian, and EA, among many others. JW Player says it’s used on 2 million sites, and its videos are watched by more than 900 million people each month.

The funding was led by Greycroft Growth (Greycroft led JW Player’s $5 million Series B two years ago) and Greenspring Associates, with participation from Cueball Capital and e.ventures.

JW Player was first created as an open source project in 2005, while the company built around it dates back to 2008. (The company was known as LongTail Video until it rebranded last fall.) Being in the video player business might not seem particularly exciting in 2014, but co-founder and CEO Dave Otten said the player has become more important as online videos are delivered to more screens and more devices.

“As the world has changed, the player has become increasingly important,” Otten said. “People view the player as a commodity, and it certainly is not.”

Chris Mahl, the company’s president, also suggested that more publishers are looking at “life after YouTube, or life beyond YouTube.” That doesn’t mean publishers will stop posting videos on YouTube, but they might start publishing more on their own sites. For example, he pointed to Weird Al Yankovic’s video “Tacky”, which is now available on YouTube, but was first posted (using JW Player) on the Nerdist website, where it received 8 million views in the first 72 hours.

“When they put [a video] in YouTube, it’s YouTube’s audience and YouTube’s advertisers,” Mahl said. “It’s simple, but it has an encumbered return. … It’s not about abandoning YouTube, it’s about maximizing your relationship with consumers.”

While using the player is free, the company charges for additional services, like running ads. Otten said that early next year, customers will start seeing more products that take advantage of all the data that JW Player has access to. Mahl argued that these data products should benefit video producers, publishers, advertisers, and even consumers, who will get access to things like smarter content recommendations.