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So What Do You Do, Kelly Day, CEO of Blip?

On building 'a real consumer brand for original Web television'

By Richard Horgan - April 3, 2013
With YouTube becoming the first website to claim over 1 billion monthly unique visitors, Hulu monetizing its name-brand content through Hulu Plus and both Amazon and Netflix creating original films to rival the Hollywood studios, it's pretty clear that Web video is here to stay.

Now, there's Blip. Featuring series of every imaginable persuasion, Blip stands as the largest independently owned and operated video network in the world. And CEO Kelly Day, having joined the company in 2012 after successful runs in e-commerce, is determined to make the little-known but widely watched portal the next big player in entertainment.

Name: Kelly Day
Position: CEO, Blip
Resume: Started at AOL, holding a variety of e-commerce positions, before moving on to The Knot as VP of e-commerce. Also oversaw digital media and commerce at Discovery Communications before joining Blip in spring of 2012.
Birthdate: September 4, 1971
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Education: Penn State University
Marital status: Married
Media idol: "I don't idolize people. We're all human."
Favorite TV shows: Hipsterhood, Girls, Game of Thrones
Guilty pleasure: Vampire Diaries
Last book read: Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur by Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor
Twitter Handle: @itskellyday

Blip Studios launched shortly after you joined the company last spring. How does that new component figure into the overall plans of the company?
I came to Blip, because I wanted to build a real consumer brand for original Web television, basically build a TV network for digital platforms. I'm a big believer that if you want to build a brand, you have to have something special, something exclusive for the audience. So, we set up Blip Studios as more of a virtual production company. Unlike a lot of other set-ups in L.A., we do not have formal studio space. We rent space as needed and do a lot of co-productions with other companies. So, Blip Studios is a production company, but it's more of a virtual entity rather than an actual production studio.

We're pretty ubiquitous also in terms of how we think about distribution. Most of our audience happens on and other Blip-operated properties, but we're kind of an equal-opportunity distributor so we window content to YouTube, AOL, Yahoo and other places. We try and help content creators get the smartest distribution, to help them find audiences and to monetize the audience they already have.

What about Roku, Google TV and the whole set-top box end of things? How much of a part of Blip right now are those applications?
The audience growth there has been a little challenging. We haven't seen a ton of people move in that direction. It's not a big area for us, but we really like what the guys at Roku are doing; we think the platform is great. We've had some apps on Roku for the last couple of years, it is on our road map and we're planning to come out with a new Roku App this year. That's definitely a platform that we're really interested in, and we will certainly continue to put some support and additional investment into it.

"I'm a big believer that if you want to build a brand, you have to have something special, something exclusive for the audience."

Blip works with roughly 7,000 content creators to produce programming for 16 different channel categories. How are these partnerships set up?
We basically have a couple of different ways that we work with content creators. Probably the most common way is that they just come to our website; they apply. We have a pretty simple application process, and we have a human being actually watch your video and look at your application. We review the content; we rate it. And a lot of this -- we're not very apologetic about saying it -- is kind of subjective. We're looking for quality, good storytelling with character development. We're looking for episodic content, because that is what we focus on. We're looking for production values, content that is often TV-14 and above, because advertising is the primary way that we support ourselves, so TV-14 tends to be a little more brand safe. Once a content creator is accepted, they can go ahead and start uploading, and then we share the revenue with them 50-50.

More recently, we have done some other types of deals and created some other types of relationships with content creators. In a few cases, we have underwritten original content. An example of that is we did a [video game competition] show called The Gauntlet with our production partner Rooster Teeth Productions. It aired in the fourth quarter of 2012; we're super happy with it. We were really fortunate in that we had a great brand, Geico, that came on board and sponsored it. And so we're going to bring that back for a second season later this year.

More and more, we are taking bets on funding original content. Some of it is with a brand on board; some of it we are deficit funding, very selectively. But the message, I think, is we're really flexible. We don't have a boiler-plate way we work with content creators. We like to find the very best types of content. We work hard to curate it and have a point of view about it. And depending on the nature of the show, depending on who the content creators are, we put the specific deal together.

NEXT >> So What Do You Do, Janice Min, Editorial Director of The Hollywood Reporter?

In terms of Blip's programming, is there a clear, consistent "Top Ten"?
Like any other television-related business, certainly there are some shows that are more popular than others. It's probably more like a "Top 100." We're not overly reliant on views from five or 10 different shows. The top 100 shows generate the majority of our views, and there is a lot of seasonality of shows coming in and out of new episodes and hiatus. Fortunately for us, there isn't really a spring and fall season. There's constantly new shows coming on to the platform; there's constantly dozens of shows releasing new episodes.

Tell us a bit more about one of your Top 100, The Chris Gethard Show?
Chris is fantastic. He's been an amazing partner and he's a great story. He's had a fairly successful, more traditional TV career. He's had a show on Comedy Central; he's done some guest spots on The Office. He's certainly one of those people who, if he wanted, could make a living exclusively working in linear TV. He does "The Chris Gethard Show" because he's really, really passionate about it. He's got an equally passionate, mainly young female audience. They love the show and they love him. He uses the studios of a New York public broadcaster where he does it on an agreed, low cost-per-hour basis. He's super smart, and we've got a number of things we'd like to do with him moving forward.

Where does YouTube for Blip figure in terms of delivering viewers?
They're in our top five. There are certain shows that we have that do well on YouTube, and it's certainly an important part of our distribution strategy. At the same time, we don't get an overwhelming number of our views from YouTube. Our brand has been built over the past seven years catering to maybe a different kind of audience. We actually don't even see a critical audience overlap with YouTube. We see a lot of non-duplicated audience, actually.

What about competitors such as My Damn Channel, Revision 3 and Alloy when it comes to talent. Do you try to lock people up to exclusive arrangements?
It depends. We have some talent that we work exclusively, others that we work with on a non-exclusive basis. I think we're in a really fortunate period right now where there is actually more amazing great storytelling and content being created than there is good, aggregated distribution. Everybody thinks that digital distribution and platforms are just ubiquitous, right? That there's just an endless amount of distribution. And, while theoretically that is true, what there is not an endless supply of is really concentrated, aggregated audiences where content creators can go and find audiences at scale. So, I think we're in a fortunate position right now where we see lots of great content created from people like My Damn Channel, with whom we have a great relationship.

"More and more, we are taking bets on funding original content."

What about live vs. on-demand. How much does the former account for current Blip audience numbers?
On-demand is definitely the predominant source of views, and I don't think it's going anywhere. I think one of the reasons people like watching TV on digital platforms is that they cannot just take it with them and watch on a phone, but watch whenever they want.

In terms of real-time viewing, Blip does have shows for which we have tested appointment viewing. So for example, while we were doing The Gauntlet, we told the audience we would release a show every Thursday night at 10 o'clock. We did live Twitter chats and things like that every Thursday with the talent, hosts, some of the contestants, some of the people from Blip. We even had the Geico client in the chat room, and the audience showed up; they were there at 9:45, waiting for the show to start. So, I think there is room for both types of models, and I think there's going to be a ton of testing and experimenting over the next couple of years.

Clearly, when you have a super-passionate fan base, combined with an advertising supported model, where you really do need to accumulate audiences, there are certainly opportunities to attract audiences for specific dates and times on digital platforms.

NEXT >> So What Do You Do, Janice Min, Editorial Director of The Hollywood Reporter?

Richard Horgan is co-editor of FishbowlLA.

© WebMediaBrands Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The foregoing is the sole property of WebMediaBrands Inc. The opinions and views expressed in the interviews and/or commentaries are solely those of the participants and are not necessarily the views of WebMediaBrands Inc., its affiliates or subsidiary companies.

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