• JW Player Raises $20 Million to Build Data-Driven “Independent Video Ecosystem”

    Online video platform JW Player announced a $20 million Series D round today from existing investors Greycroft Growth, Greenspring Associates, Cueball Capital and e.ventures. JW Player’s CEO and co-founder Dave Otten told me that with the new round the company has raised a total of $46 million, though approximately $11 million of the Series C round was used to buy out prior shareholders.

    JW Player has ambitious plans for the new financing as Dave and company president Chris Mahl explained in a briefing. The company is pursuing an over-arching strategy to build out an “independent video ecosystem” in which JW Player is a strategic partner to publishers, providing a variety of content, monetization and infrastructure services that augment its core player technologies. The foundation of the strategy is to use data collected from across the 1 billion plus monthly viewers who watch video on the 2 million plus sites powered by JW Player technology.

    The first data-driven product JW Player has introduced is video recommendations, which has been available in beta to around 100 customers since November. While the recommendations are based on network-wide viewer behaviors, for now they only tap into an individual publisher’s own video catalog (longer-term videos will be cross-pollinated from site to site). Dave said the 100 publishers have seen overall average lift in video views between 10-15% using the recommendations. The experience of 10 large beta publishers has been the primary focus. The benchmark has been primarily manually curated playlists and the JW Player recommendations outperform these 70% of the time.

    The average viewer uses JW Player 13 times per month. To drive further insights and network effects, the company is trying to increase this to 30 times per month in 2016. The recommendations product will continue to be available for free beta use for select customers in 2016 as the company works through pricing approaches.

    Dave and Chris also cited a variety of initiatives to better support publishers’ priorities. These include further enhancing JW Player’s mobile SDKs to streamline mobile app development, further building out its “JW Academy” video-based knowledge center for internal and external use, and supporting publishers’ multichannel video strategies. JW Player also plans to partially use the new funds to expand internationally, to create/implement more partnerships and to increase sales and marketing.

    JW Player also shared a few business metrics for 2015 including growing its year-over-year SaaS revenue by 100%, adding over 4,500 new SaaS customers, launching JW7 player version, JW iOS and Android SDKs, increasing its headcount by 60% and recruiting new CTO Brent Wood.

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