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All Tech Considered
2:21 am
Wed December 26, 2012

Online Videos: Not Just Made By Amateurs Anymore

Originally published on Wed December 26, 2012 5:07 am

If you've noticed that there was more to watch online this past year than old TV shows and puppy videos, you would be right. This year, there was an explosion of professionally produced videos that were made just for the Internet. Sites like YouTube, Hulu and Netflix all produced exclusive new programming in 2012.

Mark Suster, an investor, says this is where the Internet is going.

"People in America watch on average 5.3 hours of television per day," he says. "We know what the future of the Internet's going to be ... It's going to be a great, big video platform."

Suster has bet a lot of money on being right. His venture capital firm, GRP Partners, has invested millions of dollars in companies that create professional online video.

Among those companies is Maker Studios, which garners a total of 2 billion views a month for its talent. Its roster includes online sensations such as Kassem G and Epic Rap Battles of History. This year, it added Snoop Dogg to its lineup.

Suster says his bet on the company is paying off.

"Three-and-a-half years ago there were no employees," he says. "Maker Studios alone now employs more than 300 people."

Suster says next year, Maker Studios is expected to bring in more than $100 million in revenue.

There's a new name for studios like Maker. It's being called a "multichannel network," or "MCN." An MCN is an umbrella for a lot of different producers. It cross-promotes them online and gets ads for the videos on YouTube.

This year saw the launch of some new multichannel networks like MiTu, a bilingual network that focuses on lifestyle topics like recipes, makeup and money management. "I think this has been a transformative year," says its co-founder, Doug Grief.

Grief has spent most of his career in traditional television. He says that until this year, it wasn't really cool among his TV and film colleagues to talk about content for the Internet. But now, says Grief, "everybody in our business in Los Angeles and in Hollywood is talking about, 'Well, what are you doing on the Web?' "

Grief says that since MiTu's launch last April, its videos have been viewed upward of 800 million times. And as much as traditional Hollywood may be talking about online ventures, Grief says MiTu is making new stars out of people who started out making home videos.

"It's really astounding that you have these little cottage industries that are popping up around the world, and the majority of them are women. Many of them are moms and wives, and they're running these quite successful businesses from their homes," he says.

According to Grief, many of these "moms" are bringing in as much as $10,000 a month.

Among MiTu's stars is Cris Ordaz. With her down-home good looks and practical makeup advice, Ordaz has garnered a big audience and a Honda sponsorship.

Another big online player is Hulu. Though Hulu is known largely as a subscription service that recycles old TV shows, this year Hulu launched its first original scripted drama, Battleground.

Andy Forssell, a senior vice president at Hulu, describes it as a funny political drama that wasn't quite right for network TV. Forssell sees the Web as a place to experiment with programming.

"To networks, that just doesn't seem to fit any of the models they have," he says. However, Forssell says Hulu executives thought "it was just a really interesting show and very well done."

Hulu backed five of its own shows in 2012, and it has more coming this year. Netflix — the other site known for streaming other people's shows — had its first original show this year.

Investor Mark Suster says these Web-based companies realize that is the way forward. "Their future cannot be tied to just aggregating content produced by other studios," he says. "They have to have some original content."

One of the best barometers of Internet videos may be YouTube's top 10 list. Last year, only three of the top videos were made by professionals. This year, seven of the top videos were made by pros.

There are probably a few dog and cat stars who are bummed out about this. But for the rest of us, the year to come may bring more variety to our online menus.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And what we see on the Internet these days is actually increasingly fresh. This year there's lots more to watch online than old TV shows and cat videos.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports on the explosion of professionally produced videos made just for the Internet.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Mark Suster says he knows where the Internet is going.

MARK SUSTER: People in America watch on average 5.3 hours of television per day. We know what the future of the Internet's going to be. You're not going to change media consumption patterns. It's going to be a great big video platform.

SYDELL: Suster has bet a lot of money on that. He's a venture capitalist who's invested millions of dollars in companies that create professional online video - like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hello, Internet. I just wanted to say hi and introduce the only and only Snoop Dogg to YouTube.

SNOOP DOGG: Yes, sir.

SYDELL: Snoop Dogg, along with Kassem G, is being produced by a YouTube network called Maker Studios. Suster is an investor in it and this year his bet has started to pay off.

SUSTER: Three and a half years ago there were no employees. Maker Studios alone now employs more than 300 people. I think by next year Maker Studios will find itself north of $100 million in revenue.

SYDELL: Suster says the overall total views every month for Maker Studio videos is two billion. The company is an umbrella for a lot of different producers. It cross-promotes them and gets ads for the videos on YouTube. This year saw the launch of some new multichannel networks like MiTu.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking foreign language)

SYDELL: MiTu is a bilingual network that focuses on lifestyle topics like recipes, makeup, money management.

DOUG GRIEF: I think this has been a transformative year.

SYDELL: Doug Grief is the co-founder of MiTu. Until this year he spent his year focused on traditional TV.

GRIEF: It's really fascinating to someone like myself to now see everybody in our business here in Los Angeles and in Hollywood talking about, well, what do you do on the Web? It used to be not particularly cool.

SYDELL: Now it's very cool. Grief says since MiTu's launch last April, its videos have been viewed upwards of 800 million times. And as much as traditional Hollywood may be talking about online, Grief says MiTu is making new stars out of people who started out making home videos.

GRIEF: It's really astounding that you have these little cottage industries that are popping up around the world. The majority of them are women. Many of them are moms and wives, and they are running these quite successful businesses from their homes.

SYDELL: Among MiTu's stars is Cris Ordaz.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

CRIS ORDAZ: (Speaking in Spanish)

SYDELL: Ordaz is a mom working at home and her down-home good looks and practical makeup advice has garnered a big audience and a Honda sponsorship. Another big online player is Hulu. The company has a subscription service that recycles old TV shows, but this year Hulu launched an original drama.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: All right. Number three, there's going to be a film crew following us from now on. It's for some Internet thing or something. I don't know.

ANDY FORSSELL: We started with "Battleground" in February. It's a political drama, but very funny.

SYDELL: Andy Forssell is a senior vice president at Hulu. He says the Web is a place to experiment. In the case of "Battleground," Fox turned it down because of its mix of politics and humor.

FORSSELL: To networks, that just doesn't seem to fit. It doesn't fit into any of the models they have and it was just a really interesting show and very well done.

SYDELL: Hulu backed five of its own shows in 2012, and it has more coming this year. Netflix, the other site known for streaming other people's shows, had its first original show this year. Investor Mark Suster says these Web-based companies realize that this is the way forward.

SUSTER: Their future cannot be tied to just aggregating content produced by studios. They have to have some original programming.

SYDELL: One of the best barometers of Internet videos may be YouTube's top 10 list. Last year only three of the top videos were made by pros. This year, seven of the top videos are professionals. There are probably a few dog and cat stars who are bummed out about this. But for the rest of us, the year to come may bring more variety to our online menus. Laura Sydell, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.