How BroadbandTV Got To Be Watched By Millions Without Making A Single Video

In any given month, 11 million people watch BroadbandTV’s videos more than 69 million times, making it the sixth largest network on YouTube.

But there's something even more impressive: BroadbandTV hasn’t made a single video.

YouTube’s parent company Google has pinned its hopes on -- and invested hundreds of millions of dollars into -- a burgeoning group of entertainment companies whose original online video series stand to bring more viewers and advertisers to YouTube’s platform.

But while these YouTube partners, such as Maker Studios, work closely with their stable of stars to help shape their channels, BroadbandTV has opted to focus on content quantity, not content creation.

“I’d say we’re like Comcast back in the day. We don’t create content. We’re content distributors,” said Shahrzad Rafati, BroadbandTV's founder and CEO. “Video publishers are not super tech savvy. What we want to do is help them focus on what they’re good at -- content creation -- and not worry about making money or increasing traffic ... That’s what we do.”

In just five years, BroadbandTV has amassed a network of more than 6,000 video creators that range from gaming experts posting tutorials for fellow fans to aspiring comedians recording brief clips from their living rooms. In the past, it’s also worked closely with larger, more traditional content owners -- such as the NBA and Warner Brothers Studios -- by providing technology that can track down pirated videos on YouTube, then either have them removed or sell ads on the fan-uploaded clips. Now, says Rafati, content detection is "a small part of our business."

Aggregator BroadbandTV offers its partners strength in numbers. Bundling thousands of smaller YouTube channels allows the company to get a higher rate for the advertising that appears on creators’ clips. And like other networks, BroadbandTV tries to help channels grow by cross-promoting their work on related channels in the network’s "family."

The company also provides its partners with tools, such as detailed traffic data and search engine optimization tips, that Rafati claims can increase videos’ traffic by as much as 40 percent. Rafati declined to offer more than a general description of how they improve viewership, citing pending patent applications.

In exchange for BroadbandTV's help with advertising and promotion, channels that partner with the company must fork over a share of the revenue they earn from ads. Rafati declined to specify what percentage of revenue BroadbandTV takes, and BroadbandTV spokeswoman said the split between the company and its creators can vary by partner. But a recruiter for the company, who helps sign on new creators, said BroadbandTV takes 40 percent of ad revenue from partners' videos.

While Rafati’s rivals employ a deep bench of Hollywood insider-types tasked with tracking down talent, BroadbandTV has outsourced both the content creation and the talent scouting. According to Rafati, 70 percent of BroadbandTV’s prospective partners query the company, rather than being queried, which helps reduce the firm’s costs and helped it achieve profitability by 2009. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, the company has 30 full-time employees and 20 outside consultants.

Yet BroadbandTV also leans on an Avon lady model. Freelance “affiliates” can earn ten percent of the first-month revenues the company earns on any videos they bring into the network, and YouTube is full of pitch videos made by volunteers hoping to make a buck by referring a user.

The company also employs a cast of “recruiters” who are charged with identifying talent online. One such recruiter, who is based in Mumbai, India, and paid exclusively on commission, said he has orders to only consider creators who don’t use copyrighted material, post regularly to their channels, don’t spam their audiences and have at least 30,000 monthly views. A BroadbandTV spokeswoman said this viewership threshold is "out of date and is in the process of being revised," though the 30,000 views cutoff is also currently listed on BroadbandTV's VISO site.

BroadbandTV licenses content from video publishers that is syndicated on its own “VISO”-branded network of channels. The most popular of these is VISO Trailers, a destination for movie promotions that boasts 876,000 subscribers 1.1 billion video views, followed by VISO Games, which has more than 220,000 subscribers and some 355 million views. However, a handful of other BroadbandTV-owned channels appear to have been neglected, with VISO Fashion, for example, last updated four years ago.

Rafati says that the most popular YouTube videos rarely mirror the most popular shows on cable television.

“It’s all the niche programing that you may not have access to on TV,” Rafati said. “You might think that a big media brand will generate more traffic than a comedian or musician that’s an independent musician creating original content, but that’s just not the case. We have original content creators that have a huge subscriber base and get more impressions than some of these larger media brands.”

BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield, who noted as a disclaimer that he’d “never heard of" BroadbandTV, ventured that if the YouTube powerhouse is anything like its new and old media brethren, it won’t be long before it ventures beyond video aggregation and into video creation.

"There's a long history in the media space of starting with other people's content because it's cheaper," said Greenfield. "And as you develop, you do more of your own."

For now, BroadbandTV has its sights set on giving everyone their fifteen seconds of fame.

“At the end of the day, when we look at the online landscape, we believe everyone can be a content creator,” said Rafati. “It’s about providing the right tools so publishers can be successful.”