With YouTube creators starving, FanBridge's Channel Pages looks like a matchmaker sent by the video ad gods

By Michael Carney , written on March 28, 2014

From The News Desk

You’d think with 1 billion unique visitors reaching YouTube each month and more than 6 billion hours of video consumed in aggregate that content creators would be making some serious bank. You’d be wrong.

While there are exceptions to this statement, they’re few and far between. By and large, online video stars and channel owners are barely scraping out a living in the world of YouTube’s 45 percent tax on all revenue stemming from pre-roll and banner advertising. Not surprisingly then, creators are searching high and low for alternative revenue streams.

One of the most effective monetization alternatives is the integrated sponsorship – where the sponsoring brand or product is woven into the actual video content, thereby generating revenue beyond YouTube’s reach. But custom campaigns with big brands are hard to come by.

FanBridge’s Channel Pages platform, a so-called collaboration engine, is solving this problem by acting as a matchmaker between channels and brands looking to reach their targeted demographic. The platform is effectively an online landing page for channels, providing detailed statistics and audience demographic information. While the platform also connects channels with similar audiences to each other for purposes of audience cross-pollination, it’s the brand intros that are really moving the needle.

Today, FanBridge revealed just how popular its Channel Pages offering has become. Since launching the new platform in October, the company has deployed more than 10,000 unique, fully opt-in channel pages which represent more than 1 billion collective monthly video views. FanBridge is not a MCN (multi-channel Network) , but if it were, it would be among the largest in terms of total viewership. In fact, several MCNs have begun adding their channels to FanBridge’s platform, according to FanBridge co-founder and CEO Spencer Richardson, who said that those partnerships will be announced publicly in the near future.

“We’re by far the largest player in this category that has direct authorization from channel owners,” Richardson says, before adding that the only competitors that approach its scale are those that scrape data and thus have no direct relationship with their channels. “We’re really in a category of our own.”

The Channel Pages platform has connected over 700 advertisers with participating channels, including several Fortune 500 brands, according to Richardson, and now sees more than 300 new channel-to-channel collaboration offers posted each week.

Brands have the option of searching for channels using filters to target specific audiences and can also post open campaigns that are visible only to channels which match pre-set criteria. An example search may be for gaming-related channels that have a 75-percent-plus male viewership, heavy US viewership, and get at least 15,000 views per video – something that is not possible on YouTube itself.

FanBridge allows channels and brands to negotiate their own unique relationships, acting only as the introducing party according to co-founder and president Noah Dinkin. The platform is entirely free today – a luxury the company has because its core audience CRM product has been profitable for several years – but will more than likely eventually include a commission on all deals generated through the platform.

Channel Pages is complementary to FanBridge’s CRM, Dinkin says. But while the company plans to continue scaling both offerings in parallel, Channel Pages already looks like it may be the bigger opportunity. Richardson hints at a future in which Channel Pages could extend beyond YouTube and even the online video sector to serve creators on Instagram, Twitter, or other platforms. On the other hand, Channel Pages also has the opportunity to better serve fans by using consumption data to improve content discovery.

“The big elephant in the room is audience retention and increasing the lifetime value of viewer,” Richardson says.

FanBridge has raised just $2.35 million through its November 2010 Series A round from backers including SoftTech VC, Lowercase Capital, 500 Startups, First Round Capital*, Founder Collective, FF Angel LLC, and several angels. The eight year old company has been highly profitable for several years running according to Dinkin, meaning that it has the luxury of building Channel Pages with a focus on serving the creators’ needs rather than overemphasizing early monetization.

“There is a definite mismatch in value promised to creators versus value received with the [generation] 1.0 video companies,” Richardson says, adding that pre-roll and banner ads are losing effectiveness in a mobile first world, making native and integrated advertising all the more critical.

YouTube may be approaching its 10th birthday, but the platform is still maturing as a facilitator of meaningful business. By many accounts, the online video giant is suffering from an identity crisis in which it can’t decide whether it’s an impartial technology platform or a media company looking to foster next generation stars.

But as the Google-owned company grapples with these decisions, companies like FanBridge are filling the gaps and building the creator tools that the video giant has not. It’s a dynamic that could change at any time, but as things stand, Channel Pages is solving a real problem and stands to benefit handsomely as a result.

“We think Channel Pages can be a real democratizing force," Dinkin says.

(Disclosure: First Round Capital partner Josh Kopelman is an investor in PandoDaily.)

[Image via stefano_arwen, Flickr]