Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 12:44 PM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Wurl posted record results in 2020, powering free streaming linear TV channels to a variety of popular connected TVs (what Wurl calls its “Wurl Network”). Wurl launched 539 channels in 2020, including 220 in Q4 alone. It now delivers over 700 channels from approximately 150 different content producers and TV networks.
Wurl’s channel model demonstrates that despite all of the attention paid to SVOD viewership (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, etc.), consumption isn’t monolithic; in fact viewers often still crave free, lean-back, programmed TV experiences where they can press play once and then sit back and enjoy. Industry analysts have sometimes called these channels “virtual linear” or “free ad-supported TV” (FAST).
Wurl provides all the underlying delivery infrastructure and connections to the multitude of CTV devices and services, so content producers and TV networks don’t have to. Wurl gets paid primarily on the basis of gigabytes delivered for its content customers, though it also offers a CTV ad marketplace, AdPool, where it aggregates and helps monetize customers’ excess inventory.
In a briefing, Wurl CEO Sean Doherty explained that these “virtual” channels drive 100x the engagement of VOD experiences which Wurl also powers. Sean also noted that CTV companies that offer aggregated streaming linear TV services viewership have seen usage of them surge. Large OEMs are now seeking out Wurl to power up free streaming services to CTV buyers.
The model is clearly working for Wurl, which Sean said is experiencing “compounding effects” of attracting higher quality content which drives more viewership with more CTV makers integrating the services and more monetization.
In 2020 Wurl’s monthly active users were up 216% year-over-year, hours of viewing were up 104%, ad impressions were up 332% and AdPool revenue for customers was up 645%. Sean said the Wurl Network has been adding 100K viewers per day since Dec. 1st and drove 1.5 billion impressions in December.
Sean said that demand for creating virtual channels is especially high among cable TV networks which are seeing linear viewing via pay-TV contracting. Wurl also gives these networks the ability to curate specialized virtual channels from their library content and super serve specific audiences. Sean cited “Lively Place” from A+E Networks as an example.
As I wrote a year ago, Wurl continues to find itself in the middle of all the action. CTV viewing is up and ad rates for premium content are robust. Consumers are cutting the cord, but still enjoy lean-back linear experiences. Content providers and TV networks want to access these CTV audiences and revenue streams but need easy-to-use solutions that don’t require a lot of technical resources. All of this adds up to big opportunity for Wurl.