With more viewers than ever tuning into digital video services, premium publishers are looking for more ways to get in front of those audiences. With a syndication network built specifically for video, a startup called AirMedia hopes to find new distribution for premium publishers.
AirMedia was founded by RealGravity execs Luke McDonough and Doug Neiman, along with former Nexon and Backtick CTO Lynn Gabbay. After raising about $3.5 million in funding, RealGravity was acquired by Scripps Networks Interactive and became the basis for its internal video player and distribution platform.
But RealGravity also had other clients, and as it became clear that Scripps was focused on it as an internal tool rather than one that would continue to become available to other customers, there became a need for another player out there in the market.
AirMedia hopes to solve several problems for premium video publishers that are being underserved in today’s market. The first is one of distribution and syndication. Premium publishers today are mostly getting views for their videos on their own sites, and are looking for audiences from around the web, but there aren’t a lot of tools for doing so.
In part, that’s due to a number of acquisitions and shifts in the marketplace for syndication platforms. As companies like 5Min and RealGravity got acquired and integrated into their new parent companies, new platforms failed to replace them. Meanwhile, companies like Taboola and Outbrain focus primarily on serving links to pages around the web, but video is not a huge priority to them.
Those latter companies are also poor at serving up very much premium content. As you might have noticed, the “links from around the web” that appear at the bottom of many publisher sites tend to point to lowbrow content focused on celebrities in bikinis and such. While they add highly coveted ad revenue, they are an eyesore for many publishers.
AirMedia seeks to solve the quality problem by only promoting content from premium publishers. It will not only provide a new outlet through which those publishers can find video viewers, but it will also provide high-quality recommendations at the bottom of publisher sites. For video owners, the platform provides a way to reach new audiences, but also provides the ability to do all their own promotion and ad sales.
Finally, in addition to syndication and content recommendation on third-party sites, AirMedia will also provide also a portal on which it will feature videos from its partners. While small today, the hope is that the portal could eventually provide an alternative to YouTube, which has a whole lot of viewers but doesn’t provide a great monetization platform for premium publishers.
The AirMedia team has only been working on the platform for the past 10 months, but it’s already signed up some premium publishers in the sports arena, including NBC Universal Sports and Cinesport. Now their video clips will be available as part of a syndication platform that can become available on a number of digital publisher sites that would otherwise not have access to highlight videos — and get paid to feature them alongside their own content.
AirMedia has also gotten the attention of some serious media investors. It’s raised $2 million in seed funding that was led by Otter Media, the joint venture between Chernin Group and AT&T that is focused on online video services. Otter Media has also purchased a controlling stake in companies like FullScreen and Crunchyroll, and has $500 million to commit to similar media and technology companies. Other investors include Allen Debevoise, Trevor Traina, and Skip Paul.