Yesterday I had a chance to catch up with Dave Otten, CEO of LongTail Video, who told me that the company's JW Player is now being downloaded 15,000 times a day, and is live on 1.3 million sites globally. Dave estimates that 7-10 billion video streams are consumed via JW Player monthly, a sizable portion of the approximately 90 billion streams he estimates are delivered globally each month.
If you're not familiar with the JW Player, it is an open source video player that was developed back in 2005 by Jeroen "JW" Wijering and was used by YouTube as its first player. Dave said the player's growth has come purely through viral distribution and he thinks of it as "WordPress for video" (WordPress is the widely-used open source blogging platform). Dave believes JW Player's fast growth reflects the broadening appeal of online video beyond the traditional media industry. Many downloads are for first-time video users looking for an inexpensive solution to get them started (though few have graduated to other players even as their volume has scaled).
Key to JW's success has been offering a library of add-ons that make the player more robust and customize the look and feel. Often these have been created by the JW community itself. Some are free and some are paid, with revenue split between he developer and LongTail. The most heavily used are "Viral" which allows easy sharing and "The Grid" which creates a 3D effect for navigating video playlists. Dave said 300,00-400,000 sites using the player now use at least 1 plug-in.
Advertising is central to LongTail's monetization efforts and its ad solution allows JW Player users to insert their own ads, or to receive ads from partners like Google AdSense, ScanScout, AdoTube and YuMe which have been pre-integrated. Formats include pre-roll, post-roll and overlay. The JW Player is a Trojan horse for LongTail, helping it gain free reach for its bundled ad solution. Balancing its open source roots with its revenue objectives in a transparent, trustworthy manner is an important challenge for the company.
LongTail is now also offering Bits on the Run, an entry-level online video platform also developed by Wijering, which merged into LongTail last February. Bits offers a basic set of publishing functionality in a pay-as-you-go model. While it is not targeted to large media companies that have been the focus of larger, well-funded OVPs, Bits does overlap with lower-priced OVP options. Dave thinks that for the basic set of functionality most lower-volume online video providers require, Bits stacks up favorably.
On the roadmap are the 5.3 version of the JW Player (now in beta), which will offer a single API for HTML5 and Flash, consolidation of all features into 1 "dashboard" and the launch content plug-ins to help syndicate video across sites (a highly requested capability).
Taken together, it is pretty amazing progress for a company that has raised just $1.6 million in seed money and has only 20 people (14 in NYC and 6 in the Netherlands). It is also further evidence of how broadly adopted online video is becoming, turning organizations across the spectrum into video providers. While Hollywood-produced content will dominate for a long time to come, the sheer range of video providers means consumers will have many more choices.
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