Updated. Web series distribution platform Blip has been quietly ditching a good chunk of its distribution partners, including a number of Smart TV platforms.
Blip severed ties with Boxee, PopBox, Samsung and Vizio at the end of February and will stop distributing its videos to TiVo, DivX TV and Sony in April. The company wasn’t available for comment when contacted for this article, but comments made to Blip’s own web series producers make it clear that there simply was no money to be made on any of these Smart TV platforms.
Blip used to compete squarely with YouTube as a host for all kinds of videos, but the site relaunched last year with a focus on serialized web content. A big part of that shift was a commitment to distribute and monetize shows across a multitude of platforms. Blip’s site still lists 20 distribution partners — but come May, less than half of these original partners will be left. The company explained these changes to video producers this way:
“In general, they fell into one of three categories: 1) The service is no longer of value to our producers; 2) the service never delivered value to our producers; or 3) few, if any producers, use the service.”
A big part of this was that Blip wasn’t able to successfully monetize its videos on most of the Smart TV platforms it is leaving. But even some of the partners that did run ads against Blip’s videos — namely Blinx, VodPod and MeFeedia — apparently didn’t provide enough of a return to warrant for Blip to stick around. The site will also stop distributing videos to Vimeo, but will keep YouTube and Google TV as distribution partners. Also still part of Blip’s distribution network are iTunes and Roku:
“We are exploring options with Apple and Roku. We think these are two areas of our current offering that we can improve upon greatly.”
Part of this may just be Blip trying to find its place in a changing online video ecosystem, where ad dollars are increasingly concentrating around a few big players. The company started a new, monetized partnership with AOL just this week, and has said it may add a few select additional distribution partners in the future.
But Blip’s move could also foreshadow a bigger trend: Dedicated set-top boxes for online video still have a relatively small user base. Some of the bigger CE makers may ship millions of units, but that doesn’t mean that TV viewers are actually engaging with their platforms, save for the occasional use of the embedded Netflix app. With that, Smart TV platform makers are caught in a bit of a bind: Without content, users won’t tune in — and without viewers, content providers don’t see enough value in their platforms.
Update: Blip’s Steve Woolf sent me the following comment via email in response to this story:
“We talked at great length about our distribution partners before making any decisions, and we’re very strong believers in the future of television distribution in all its forms. It’s one of the most exciting ways to deliver our shows to viewers, and it is obvious that it will play an important role in the future of original web series. As the article states, the activation and adoption rates on some platforms are still in the very early days. We’re going to focus on improving the experience of discovering Blip shows on the platforms that have the most viewers interested in watching them, and the ones that will deliver the most value back to producers in the form of audience and/or revenue.”