Fullscreen unveils Channel+, bets that technology plus white glove service is the key to brand success on YouTube

By Michael Carney , written on October 29, 2013

From The News Desk

The competition among online video MCNs (multi-channel networks) is fierce, as each is trying attract the interdependent constituencies of content partners, audience, and brand advertisers. While some companies in the category have looked to differentiate themselves through investment in premium original programming, others have chosen to build out their technology and creator services offerings in hopes of proving the most attractive home for the best content.

Fullscreen has largely been in the latter category, relying on technology to set it apart from its MCN competition. Today, Fullscreen is pulling the curtain back on its channel management platform which has made the company a hit not only with individual creators and YouTube stars, but also with Fortune 1000 brands. With the launch of version 2.0 of its brand-focused Channel+ concierge service, the company has decided to form a dedicated business unit around this nearly two-year-old offering to serve up this premium experience to a broader collection of brand partners.

Under the service, Fullscrreen dedicates a team of personal strategists to each brand channel. This team is responsible for implementing SEO and metadata optimization, conducting competitive analysis, and creating custom post-rolls to help brands measure success. Channel owners also get premium to Total ID, Fullscreen’s premium asset management and protection service to measure a brand’s footprint on YouTube. All of this is centralized within a brand dashboard and accompanies by a suite of tools to gain insight on view trends, real time metrics, and distribution methods.

“With Channel+ we’ve been able to increase brand views 2,200 percent and grow subscribers 1,500 percent across more than 100 channels, as well as give our partners an easy way to protect and manage their content, and better understand their audience’s behavior,” says Fullscreen COO Ezra Cooperstein.

With today’s announcement, the company is adding three new white glove features to Channel+: Community Management, Brand Amplifier, and Channel Programing. Each feature is available at no additional charge beyond the company’s existing platform subscription.

YouTube is becoming more and more akin to a social network, Cooperstein says. Thus, through its Community Management service, the company will now help its brand partners cultivate a social fan community by dedicating personnel managing activity around comments, likes, and subscriptions on behalf of the brands. This activity is made possible thanks to Fullscreen’s existing technology platform.

Brand Amplifier is a feature that takes advantage of Fullscreen’s unique position as both a partner to both individual content creators and mega-brands – in this way it’s like a hybrid of creator-focused Maker Studios and the brand-management SaaS platform offered by ZEFR. As of today, Fullscreen plans to begin connecting key influencers within its creator community to pair with brands ambassadors. These fan favorites will act as evangelists, driving awareness and cross-promotion. Influencers will be compensated through sharing in the channel revenue resulting from the audience increase they are able to generate.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last two-plus years, it’s that creators want to be brands, and brands want to be creators,” Cooperstein says. In some ways, Fullscreen is better positioned to facilitate this than anyone within the YouTube ecosystem.

Finally, through Channel Programming, Fullscreen is now offering brands access to in-house editing teams capable of repurposing existing content, such as creating video mashups from existing libraries. This type of content is inexpensive to create, relative to the cost of new content production, and can help brands further engage existing and target audiences.

Even prior to today’s formal announcement, Channel+ has worked with brands including NBC, GE, Cartoon Network, Fox, and AARP to amass more than three billion earned views and 12 million subscribers, Cooperstein adds. Fullscreen's global network generates more than 2.5 billion monthly video views and reaches over 200 million subscribers in total.

Fullscreen isn’t the only company to offer YouTube channel management dashboards. Others are available from VidIQ, Tubular Labs, and elsewhere. What the company has done well is to combine this SaaS toolset with a managed services component – in other words it delivers insights plus operational support in a way that seems to resonate as brands continue to ask themselves, “How can I be more effective on YouTube?”

Fullscreen is approaching the third anniversary of its launch in January and has raised more than $30 million to date. This is a large sum relative to most startups its age, but pales in comparison to its two crosstown MCN rivals Maker Studios and Machinima, which have raised $65 million and $50 million respectively. But to date, these competitors have spent more heavily on premium content acquisition and the creation of original content than Fullscreen, which has invested more in its technology platform and is just beginning to explore these other growth avenues. In that way, Fullscreen is more akin to crosstown YouTube software company ZEFR, which has raised $29 million and is growing at a staggering clip. Maker Studios has also begun investing heavily to develop its own creator-focused technology platform.

Fullscreen was profitable through raising its large Series A round in June of this year, but declines to comment on its current financial results. One would suspect that it has increased its investment in growth since raising this round, and thus profitability is likely not the focus. But Fullscreen may be the only MCN to achieve healthy enough operating margins to find itself within shouting distance of profitability at scale, something that portends well for its technology-driven future.

The MCN business model has been highly contentious of late, with countless entrepreneurs, creators, and investors weighing in to question the viability of building a business on someone else’s platform and around third-party content. But of all approaches taken by companies in this category, the decision to drive efficiency through technology appears to be one that is paying off in spades. Today’s announcement suggests that Fullscreen has no plans to slow down in this regard.

[Image via Geoff White]