By Liz Shannon Miller
So a few weeks ago I wrote this about the current state of web video:
One of my favorite questions to ask people who make content for YouTube, or work for companies that make content for YouTube, is this: How comfortable are you with the fact that YouTube is your distribution platform? How comfortable are you, essentially, with the fact that YouTube has the power to make decisions that might hurt your business?
Another way of putting it: How comfortable are you with the fact that your business is built on the back of another business?
Normally, people have stalled on a response to this question — done everything possible to avoid actually answering it. But we’re entering a new phase of the web video world now, one that, when the historians have their way with it, could be seen as kicked off by Jason Calcanis proclaiming that he was no longer interested in using YouTube’s money, but also revealing that Maker Studios was planning an independent platform for its content.
Since Calcanis’ opening salvo, it’s become clear that the web video space may be poised for serious fracturing, as creators born of YouTube seek out platforms outside of YouTube.
But even independent start-ups are exploring the possibilities. One interesting move is the mobile/tablet app ShowYou, which today is announcing a new phase: While its first iteration was entirely geared towards web video discovery, ShowYou is now launching a new platform that will allow both creators and casual web video consumers to distribute video they’ve created, as well as content they want to share with others, in a channel format.
And for channels sharing original content, ShowYou will enable them to put advertising on their videos. From the blog post announcing this decision: “It’s like having your own app, but without the costs, and maintenance and distribution challenges.”
Right now, YouTube doesn’t allow pre-roll ads on mobile video outside of its iOS app — ShowYou is hoping to address this, while also making sure that pre-rolls and other ads will only be enabled on content that isn’t already receiving it from sites like YouTube, as that would be against the YouTube API TOS. “We have these channels, but for some people, they want to make money, it’s their livelihood,” ShowYou CEO Mark Hall said via phone. “The platform is based around giving them better tools.”
ShowYou’s plans are in the early stages, which is why, for the next 90 days, its premium offerings are free to anyone interested. Most importantly, because their platform can work with content hosted anywhere, not just YouTube, they’re able to remain relatively agnostic should a major divide in platforms come about. “We expect in the future to have people come to us and say I don’t want to use YouTube for this,” Hall said.
The reason that ShowYou is making its premium offering free for the moment is because it’s in a highly experimental stage. But the approach it’s taking towards web video may be one to emulate — because its platform can accept all video formats, not only does it have the freedom to focus on discovery, but it’s also not beholden to any particular format.
ShowYou’s burden is that it has to create value in order to justify why creators would sign up for its platform. But that’s also one of the company’s chief advantages.