Google’s acquisition of YouTube realigned the online video space.
Metacafe is now the “world’s largest independent video site,” according to Arik Czerniak, Co-founder and CEO. I had a lengthy chat with Czerniak yesterday while he was in NewYork City, the “media capital of the world.”
Czerniak is based in Israel, where he served ten years in the Israeli army as a fighter pilot. Trained in physics, computer science and math, Czerniak also was part of the Israeli military R & D team.
After leaving the Israeli army in 2003, Czerniak obtained an MBA and founded Metacafe with Eyal Herzog, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer.
In preparation for my discussion with Czerniak I visited his site, Metacafe. Highlighted videos included, “Dude feels up his mom.”
I asked Czerniak how he made the shift from fighter pilot and military R & D expert to online video entrepreneur featuring user generated content (UGC) the likes of “Dude feels up his mom.”
When Czerniak was approached by Co-founder Herzog about joining together to create Metacafe, he saw a way to fulfill people’s “hunger for content.” If people crave “Dude feels up his mom,” that’s part of “human nature,” Czerniak believes. The need to “grab people’s attention” also can’t be ignored.
Among the other highlighted videos at Metacafe:
Extra 330 L - Electric Powered Electric power has come a long way - and it is here to stay! Watch the power of this big model and hear the sound of two synchronized Hacker C50XL.
Building An A340-600 Amazing footage of how Airbus A340-600 is built.
Metacafe’s tagline encapsulates the company’s mission: “Serving the world’s best videos.”
How does Metacafe fulfill its mission? For Czerniak, Metacafe is no YouTube; He delights in itemizing how Metacafe is differentiated from YouTube:
Metacafe is all about video quality, not video quantity,
Metacafe is not a video sharing site, it is an online video destination,
Metacafe surfaces and serves only “entertainment-grade” content.
Czerniak is emphatic that Metacafe is the “best place to watch and distribute quality short video,” and he offers data aiming to prove it.
Czerniak did a Metacafe vs. YouTube top video views analysis October 16, 2006, comparing the number of views received by Metacafe’s top 200 videos and the number of views received by YouTube’s top 200 videos.
Results? The top 200 videos at YouTube received a total of about 560,000,000 views while the top 200 videos at Metacafe received about 630,000,000, 12% more than YouTube. Czerniak happily concludes that Metacafe is an “entertainment destination” for watching the “best videos.”
Czerniak touts a “community of 13 million viewers.”
For Czerniak, there are two kinds of UGC videos: personal or entertainment. Personal UGC videos, the “friends and family” variety, are only of interest to the small circle of people with personal attachment to the content. Entertainment UGC videos, on the other hand, transcend individuals to spark the interest of tens of thousands of viewers.
Metacafe is championing broadly entertaining videos, not uniquely personal ones.
A key differentiator of Metacafe is its three step process for serving only “entertainment-grade” video content:
1) Video search “footprint” eliminates duplicates and improves relevancy,
2) 100,000 reviewers filter out inappropriate or uninteresting content,
3) VideoRank mines collective wisdom of viewer to determine site placement.
Result? Only 10% of videos uploaded are accepted for inclusion at Metacafe and those that are the most engaging to viewers are organically promoted.
Is Metacafe being too exclusive? For Czerniak, Metacafe’s growth stems from its dedication to providing viewers with the “best” UGC video entertainment experience.
Metacafe recently launched a Producer Rewards program designed to foster even greater UGC video quality by providing a compensation program for content creators.
Producer Rewards heralds a new “User Licensed Content” (ULC) model, according to Czerniak. Producers are paid a fixed rate card fee of $5 CPM once video views exceed 20,000, in exchange for licensing their content non-exclusively to Metacafe. The program’s one month beta yielded 30 video creators more than $60,000 combined for their work, according to Czerniak.
Czerniak provided testimonials from happy participants in the Producers Rewards beta (appended at the end of this interview). Contrary to Google Sponsored Video for “major producers” (see “Why Google Sponsored Video is Google business as usual”), Metacafe Producer Rewards is a vehicle for real UGC video creators to take a shot at the video “brass ring.”
Czerniak believes its unique ULC model will motivate and inspire the creator in everyone. Metacafe views its $5 CPM ULC fee as an investment in growing the best UGC video library online. Metacafe is currently monetized by banner advertising at the site, not Google AdSense.
By continually enhancing the quality of its “entertainment grade” videos, Czerniak is confident Metacafe’s controlled environment will attract brand advertisers that want to participate in social media but are averse to UGC risk. Syndication of Metacafe’s ULC across multi distribution platforms is also a goal.
Czerniak’s confidence in Meatacafe’s ULC future is backed up by Accel Partners and Benchmark Capital, to the tune of about $20 million.
I asked Czerniak if Google’s $1.65 billion in stock acquisition of YouTube and Sony’s $65 million cash acquisition of Grouper speaks to the valuation of Metacafe.
Google’s high-profile, high-ticket purchase of YouTube makes Czerniak “very happy.” Google “understands” the huge potential of short form video, he believes.
Czerniak is quick to submit, however, that Metacafe has “better technology” than YouTube and is a “better entertainment destination” than YouTube. Metacafe is also much, much bigger than Grouper, according to Czerniak.
Where does that place Metacafe, for Czerniak? In the high nine figures.
I asked Czerniak if he is fielding M & A interest from third parties. Czerniak noted that online video is “very hot.”
Short form video is not an “extension of TV,” it is a new medium with unlimited potential, Czerniak believes. He asserted he is committed to taking Metacafe as far as it can go to realize that potential.
METACAFE PRODUCERS REWARDS TESTIMONIALS
Brandon McConnell, 30, is a zoo groundskeeper by day and spray paint artist by night. He posted two videos of himself creating a painting in minuets; He used a digital video recorder. More than 1 million people have viewed his Amazing Spray Painting and Amazing Sprayer! videos, netting Brandon about $5,300 during the Producer Rewards beta program.
Mark Exner, 21, is a Merchant Marine in training and nature enthusiast. During a recent 300-day tour at sea, Exner made a video of a family of orcas swimming in a hole in the Antarctica ice; He shot his clips with an HP R707 digital camera. His video, Orcas in Antarctica, has been viewed more than 150,000 times and he made about $900 during the Producer Rewards beta program.
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