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Online video has been sucking in millions of capital with very little to show for it. On the surface, Brightcove, the online video management startup, might seem a perfect example. It just raised another $12 million in fourth-round venture funding, now nearing the $100 million mark, but is still barely breaking even with just $50 million in projected annual revenue.

Why do its investors stick with it? Well, it looks like they might finally get their lucrative public exit after all. This recent financing is pretty typical of pre-IPO mezzanine rounds, giving the company enough runway to file with the SEC and win interest from investors by the middle of next year. The money, which reportedly leaves Brightcove with $36 million in cash, will be used to fuel expansion in Asia and Europe, as well as research, development and a possible acquisition strategy.

Getting to that IPO isn’t just about payoff for Brightcove’s investors, a diverse flock that includes Accel Partners, General Catalyst Partners, AOL, IAC and the New York Times. It’s also about beating its competitors to market to become the go-to Internet-video management platform for anyone looking to monetize their video content.

Brightcove is one of the few survivors in the online-video market, which saw a bubble of investment before and after YouTube’s $1.65 billion sale to Google in 2006. But the company’s rivals are growing ever more fierce, as the Wall Street Journal also points out. One of them, Episodic, just got acquired by Google last week. And Ooyala just raised $20 million to serve a roster of prestigious clients, hoping to head Brightcove off at the pass. But with capital thinning out across many small startups, the online video space seems to be poised for a wave of consolidation.

Money isn’t the only key to survival. With everyone innovating so fast, superior technology is needed as well. At its core, Brightcove provides video-hosting services, ensuring that formats are compatible for various devices like smartphones, television screens and the like, and also serving and tracking advertising to monetize content. Just last week it debuted its “Brightcove Experience” software, supporting HTML5 video on Apple’s iPad, which lacks Flash capabilities. The transition from Flash to HTML5-compatible video formats could boost providers like Brightcove, since companies currently hosting their own Flash videos may decide they need help to make the change. Brightcove says it will continue to update this software to allow branded videos, advertising, analytics and social media tie-ins.

Despite the narrowing playing field, Brightcove’s outlook is pretty bright. Its projected revenues for 2010 are middling, but its growth is promising. Revenue jumped 50 percent between 2008 and 2009, breaking the company out of the red. This year, it should see $50 million in revenues, according to a Wall Street Journal source.

Come to think of it, if someone wanted to do an online-video series about a startup that bucked the odds to thrive and prosper, maybe Brightcove could play host.

Based in Cambridge, Mass., Brightcove is also backed by Hearst Interactive Media, GE Commercial Finance, Allen & Company, Brookside Capital, Maverick Capital, Dentsu, J-Stream, Cyber Communications and TransCosmos.

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