Will EQAL’s Shift From Creating Content To Hosting It Pay Off?

Another change in tack for digital content company EQAL — which recently shifted its focus from investing in its own original series, to producing content for big brands. Now it’s adding white-label content hosting and website design to the mix, with the launch of a new service called Umbrella.

Indie producers, mommy-bloggers and even college kids that want to try to become the next online video star can use Umbrella to host and promote their shows; the software platform combines blog posts with discussion boards, forums and automatic syndication to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

The goal is to give content creators a template for creating sites like the ones that host EQAL shows like Harper’s Globe (pictured). Currently in beta, the company says its “actively seeking out” brands and emerging talent to test the platform — which it plans to offer for free. So how will Umbrella contribute to EQAL’s bottom line?

CEO Miles Beckett tells us that the plan is to eventually charge content producers either a flat fee for usage or work on an ad revenue share. (The site templates will have space for banner ads; producers can also set up product placement or sponsorship deals on their own). This content hosting model is similar to one attempted by ManiaTV, though the revenue-sharing deals weren’t lucrative enough to help keep that company afloat.

And since EQAL has foregone the “create a series and hope the advertisers will come” business model, in favor of securing advertisers for shows first, it’s not clear why the team thinks that smaller producers that don’t have the track record of hit shows like lonelygirl15 will be able to make decent money (and pay up enough to cover the hosting costs).

Still, S.F.-based Mevio currently offers web series developers (and on-air talent) a distribution and promotion platform — and the company says it’s profitable — so there’s at least one startup that’s making the model work.