Online video company Blip will relaunch its popular video player later this year, hoping that a more social viewing experience and a host of new shows will ease the company's entrance into video production.
Blip staked out a place in the burgeoning industry of online video in 2005, but on Thursday, the company decided to join the crowded group of content producers, launching Blip Studios.
Blip had previously focused on its video player, distributing shows and selling ads for web series, and that remains the core part of the business. But under new leadership – CEO Kelly Day took over in March — Blip will now build networks of shows through talent partnerships, create branded entertainment and produce original shows.
TheWrap spoke with Steve Woolf (left), the head of the newly formed Blip Studios, to discuss the updated video player, the company's content strategy and the future of Blip.
Why produce content and why do this now?
Looking at years of thousands of shows getting uploaded to Blip, some were really difficult and hard to discover, and we wanted to help audiences discover them. It became clear there is a play for content, and not just aggregation, which was our model before. To keep growing our enterprise value, we needed to have a real place in ownership and creation.
And so how will this digital studio work?
We have three operating components. We’re building networks in places where we already have a lot of strength, like comedy, where we pick the people we want to partner with and develop additional content.
The second is branded entertainment. One of the real advantages we have in owning a network of shows, a player, products and now with the ability to produce content, is we’re a one-stop shop for brands. There’s a big appetite from media advertisers for this kind of thing.
The final part is strategic originals. We’re working with partners that have big audiences but not a video strategy. So many sites have great, larger passionate audiences, but don’t know how to produce video.
Web video production is an increasingly crowded space, whether it’s with newer web-only companies or the more traditional powers like Yahoo and AOL. How do you make Blip stand out?
One thing we’ve always been is highly distributed. In any given month we have 250-300 million video views, but only a small fraction happens on blip. That’s producers taking our player and embedding it on websites.
So later in the year we’ll roll out a new social experience to follow shows and stars of shows and we’ll be rolling out a new player in a month or so with social engagement.
How will your player and site be more social?
We see a huge opportunity in integrating Facebook’s open graph into the actions of the player. We’re making it really easy for people to sign up to Blip using a Facebook account, making recommendations based on a host of data.
One thing that makes consistent web series hits is a two-way conversation with the audience where we’re engaging them and they have a voice in the show and the content – a real sense of ownership. We’re choosing to work with creators that know how to do that.
The player itself will detect comments or viewings and post it on a person’s Facebook timeline.
Will all the interaction happen on Facebook then?
No, because the player and social experience will travel wherever the Blip player gets embedded. We’re working toward a unified conversation where any comment left on a Blip video will appear and travel with that video. The player is our calling card; it’s the first experience the audience has with a show.
Beyond social, how do you make the content itself stand out? How will your content partners and production compare to a Maker or a YouTube?
We’ll be much more selective about the people we’ll do deals with — probably another eight to ten by the end of the year. We’re not going after a massive aggregation model. There clearly is a lot of value in that, but it’s not our play.
We’d like to find shows and creators that have the best relationships with passionate audiences that will follow in everything these guys do.
How much production help will you provide to creators?
There will be some folks who have it down, that have their own production company with their own slate of shows. What they really want is distribution and ad sales. Then there will be shows and creators that bring a big audience but want to develop more content around the existing show. We can provide studio space and post-production resources.
I assume this will involve hiring new staff?
Absolutely. We’ll be hiring in audience, marketing, post-production, line production and website editorial support.
How fast will this ramp up?
We are taking it slow, but we’re building a base. In the next few weeks we’ll be closing a bunch of new deals and accelerate things in a big way. Today is a huge day where go from a platform-aggregation model to a digital studio.
What is your background in production and how do you see your past influencing this new studio?
I have a unique background for this role. I co-created Epic Fu, an early web series that was a five to seven minute pop culture show. Back in 2008 it got 2 million to 3 million views a month and was one of the biggest shows on the Internet. It was the sandbox for all I know – brand deals, branded original shows in the wake of the show. I saw it crest and watched the industry evolve to the state it is now. It’s coming full circle.