There’s been “a very big shift” in the thinking of many online publishers, according to JW Player President Chris Mahl. Yes, many of them are looking at Facebook and YouTube as platforms where they can build awareness, but he argued that they’re “really concentrating on driving traffic on their own sites.”
“That’s where you as the publisher have complete and total control over how your audience engages with your content that you’re spending so much time and money on,” added CEO Dave Otten. “You also probably have complete control over the monetization.”
Naturally, it’s a trend that JW Player (maker of the video player of the same name) would like to see continue, and it seems to be reflected in the company’s growth — it added more than 4,500 software-as-a-service customers and doubled revenue in the past year, and it now reaches more than 1 billion unique viewers in a single month. It’s also announcing that it has raised $20 million in Series D funding.
The round follows a Series C of the same size from 2014, and it comes from existing investors, including Greycroft Growth, Greenspring Associates, Cueball Capital and e.ventures.
JW Player is working to build more tools on top of the basic player. Otten said the company no longer sees itself as just a “technology provider” for publishers: “We’re very much shifting to being an audience and monetization partner, a business growth partner.”
It already helps publishers connect their videos to existing ad networks, and Otten said the company is now building more data-driven products, including a video recommendation engine that’s currently being tested by about 100 different publishers. Mahl acknowledged that content recommendations are a familiar idea, but he argued that JW Player’s implementation is “revolutionary,” because publishers just “turn it on” and it automatically prioritizes the videos that will perform best with each viewer.
The company is also building more tools for developers. It launched its software development kit for Android apps last year, with plans to add support for apps on Internet-connected TVs early this year.
And it’s planning for global growth. Mahl said that while 40 percent of JW Player’s publishers are outside the United States, the company has remain “concentrated in New York.” That’ll change this year, with new offices in Western Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.