It wasn’t too long ago that YouTube was one of the only online video sites, and online video had no trouble drawing in an audience. Now that a host of new players have hit the scene, including Netflix and Hulu to name just two, companies vying for eyeballs are having to come up with new ways to stand out in the crowd. One player, My Damn Channel, which launched in 2007, is focusing on producing original content featuring celebrities, and sponsored content made in partnership with major brands. The company announced a $4.4 million infusion of funding today.
“You’re in the very early days of this business,” said Rob Barnett, the chief executive at My Damn Channel, which focuses on comedy and music video. “It’s like cable television in the early 1980s.”
Barnett says we’ll see consolidation in the coming years as different sites take leadership positions in the market the way HBO became a powerhouse for movies or MTV became the same thing for music back in the 80s. “Years later there’s a small number of places people go for news, comedy, sports,” he said. “We see ourselves as building something that can be a part of that.”
Other companies banking on original celebrity content to pull in an audience are Revision3 and Funnyordie. Funnyordie was started by Will Ferrell and regularly features SNL buddies and other famous comedians. My Damn Channel features work by Keanu Reeves, Jonah Hill and Sarah Silverman, as well as a music series from artist Don Was. My Damn Channel is also spending money on its marketing department and relies on social media “maniacs” in the company to bring eyeballs to the site.
“More times than not we’re stealing from the playbook of an HBO or Showtime — shortcutting to successful projects by turning to people who have experience creating successful entertainment and who bring large audiences with them from other media,” Barnett said. “They are free of red tape that exists in every other aspect of their show business lives. They often only deal with one person here.”
Beyond banner ads and embedded video ads, one of the primary revenue drivers for these kinds of companies is corporate branding. IKEA is the sole sponsor of the ongoing original show “Easy to Assemble,” which features one character who is an employee of the company. “These deals are increasing in number and in size,” Barnett said. “With major players realizing that 18-34 year-olds, and especially 18-24 year-olds, are unplugging their television sets. The idea that you can reach people with 30-sec TV spots alone is antiquated.”
The “Assemble” series has brought 13 million page views to the site in its most recent season. That’s a television show-sized audience that Barnett thinks could be popular with advertisers.
The new funding will go towards sales personnel in the company’s LA and New York offices, as well as some new management.
Barnett says the company will roll out paid-for premium content in the 4th quarter, introducing another potential revenue stream.