Blip.tv focuses on serialized web shows, and works with independent content creators and companies like Revision3, Next New Networks, 60 Frames, and Vuguru. Several shows on blip have been purchased by major networks, including “Wallstrip” (CBS) and “TreeHugger” (Discovery). Dina has also brokered sponsorship deals for shows with F500 companies like P&G, GM, and Bacardi.
Dina Kaplan is a co-founder of blip.tv and serves as the company’s COO. Before blip.tv, Dina was a news reporter with WNBC in New York, Wave3 News (NBC) in Louisville Kentucky and News12 Long Island and New Jersey.
You come from a traditional local TV background . Tell me how you made the leap to new media.
I loved working in TV, I loved being a producer at MTV News. It was rewarding to be a reporter breaking news for a broadcast network. But a ll the energy and excitement is in the new media and it feels wonderful to have created a company with business partners. It’s a pitch for entrepreneurship over all.
In terms of leaving traditional media – you almost feel more job security being in a start-up. Innovation comes from start-ups, and it’s exciting to be part of one that’s all about the democratization of media. People with talent who don’t have the connections can build up a big audience for themselves and make money, all on t he basis of their talent.
When we started blip.tv in 2005, my friends thought I was crazy. I came from working at the White House, MTV, local NBC. To go work on video on the web, which in 2005, nobody was doing and nobody was watching, my frirends, one by one, did interventions. They didn’t even understand what I was talking about.
Tell me a bit about blip.tv and what makes it unqiue.
You can pretty much classify video-sharing sites into three categories: viral video, of which YouTube is the most famous. Second, is the “Friends and famliy” sharing like Flickr for video. NInety-nine percent of the video sites fit into one of those two categories.
We’ve been entirely focused on people creating orignal serialized web shows. We’re much more similar to a TV network, in that we only focus on shows, than we are to a viral video site. What’s so exciting about what we’re doing is that people are building up a brand for themselves, they have loyal audiences and they can actually make some money. The market for shows on the web will be more sustainable ultimately than viral video.
Can anybody be a series producer on blip.tv?
We keep the pipeline open. When we were first raising money, every VC said, shut off the pipeline and screen all the shows. Big problem: We don’t want to spend all day hearing pitches. We’re all about democratization. More importantly, shows emerge from the grassroots. For example, we have “The Wood Whisperer,” a wood-working show. Our head of content saw this show when it got 15 views a month, we loved it and started marketing it on different websites where we syndicate content. Now it gets 100,000s of views. That wouldn’t have happened if we’d shut off the pipeline.
The mouse is the new remote control and thousands of people will make better decisions than us acting as studio chiefs. It’s as likely that the big show that crosses over to the mainstream – the first mega-hit on the web that hasn’t happened yet – it’s as likely it’ll come from a random person in Iowa than being produced by a professional production company.
We’re all about enabling talent, regardless of where they are to make it big on the web.
How do people make money with their shows?
There are two ways we drive revenues for shows, and in both cases, we split ad revenue 50-50. Our top goal is to make money for the top shows. There’s no better feeling than calling up a show creator and telling them we’re sending them a check. First, we pick off the first top 50 shows and pitch them to sponsors – either a brand match or a CPM. Maybe the show will do a shout-out to the brand. A great example is HBO’s “John Addams” miniseries. The producers wanted to tap into the current election fever. So they tapped into two of our shows, “Talking Points Memo” and “Political Lunch .” This was a high-end, high touch integrated brand campaign.
On the other end of the spectrum, we also have a run-of-site network, which is a network of networks. We’ve partnered with about six video ad networks, including Google Ad Sense and a few others. All those video ad networks have been integrated and we can run any of them from blip.tv inventory. We’ll push all our inventory towards whatever partner has the highest CPM at that moment. We build smart technology into the blip player, which is constantly calculating the highest CPM. And that it’s a 50-50 split. Obviously there’s less money here…
What kind of series have been most successful?
It’s slightly all over the map. I tell people to do whatever they’re passionate about. Length does matter. The ones that do the best have 3 to 5 minute episodes. Most people are watching on the computer, so they should be short. Eventually they’ll be watching on their TVs. Tech shows do well. Comedy does well. An interesting trend for 2008, is we’re seeing more new dramas and fewer new comedies. We have a lot of interesting and slightly wacky dramas. One is called “Meet me in the Graveyard,” another called “Heathens,” a modern-day pretty bizarre Western, another is a highly produced artistic film noir called “Drawn by Pain/” My hats off to people producing scripted dramas for the internet.
What do you know about the content creators?
It’s similar to the relationship a network would have with their top creators. They inevitably have questions for us. They get offers for TV shows, for films – and they’re probably doing the show in their basement in Missouri. We’re in an interesting role in being a new media talent agency. They ask us everything from where they can get a lawyer to where can they get a headshot. We end up coaching them a lot and trying to navigate the web-video star-making machine, which isn’t a position we ever expected to be in. But that’s been an interesting part of the process.
The budgets vary wildly. We host Michael Eisner’s shows – the latest one, which just launched, a drama called “Foreign Bodies” is pretty high budget with serious sponsors. It really ranges from the guy in the basement with a microphone to Michael Eisner-produced shows you could see on TV. We’ve been surprised at how high the quality of these shows are in general.
You don’t have an exclusive relationship with your content providers?
No – the trend is openness. Content creators want to see their content everywhere. They have their shows on their own site; we integrate with iTunes, Adobe Media Player, AOL Video, Google Video and so on. That’s the trend. If they want to send it outside the blip network, they should. The whole trend is to take the content to wherever the eyeballs are. I can’t imagine ever asking them to sign an exclusive contract.
What about moving content to the mobile platform?
No, not yet. I don’t think people are watching videos on their cell phones. We do have a technological integration with iPhone. But there’s not a lot of money in that world. We’ll look at it in 2009. We’re poised, we’re ready to do it. Eventually we’ll just be talking about shows, and they’ll be available on all three screens.