ANGELES — Ilya Pozin’s 2-year-old daughter wasn’t
about to abandon daddy’s comfortable lap. But Pozin
had to manage his successful e-cards company, so he’d
entertain Paisley in his home office by playing cartoons
and educational videos off YouTube on a second monitor.
proved to be a chore. Every few minutes, he’d have to
hunt for and vet a new video as antsy Paisley pleaded
for more Elmo.
a new father, I started learning how to change diapers,
but I didn’t know becoming an expert of children’s
video content had to be on my list," Pozin said.
incredibly popular, Google-owned YouTube has frustrated
many consumers who, like the Pozin clan, would prefer a
more lean-back entertainment experience. Pozin’s
modern parenting problem led him to form a startup a
year ago in Los Angeles, Pluto.TV, that aims to make Web
viewing in nearly any genre as mindless as firing up
cable or satellite TV.
as Pluto took off, it turned out the website and mobile
app hadn’t simply addressed consumers’ gripes with
content discovery on YouTube. Video makers, who crave
more revenue from their online creations than YouTube
provides, began flocking to it as well, including
digital studio Funny or Die, Walt Disney Co.-owned Maker
Studios and QVC.
and the several other California companies reimagining
the experience of watching videos made for the Web are
unlikely to unseat YouTube any time soon. But the
competition is welcome news to the fast-growing online
has blown the door open for mainstream consumption of
online video," said Pluto Chief Executive Tom Ryan.
"But by curating the best of the Web and delivering
that in a familiar experience across any device, we’re
able to become one of the preeminent video apps."
is designed as a channel guide for the Web. A video —
often embedded from YouTube — starts playing when the
interface is loaded, providing "white noise"
during channel surfing like a TV does but YouTube proper
created more than 100 channels, and about 15 employees
wander the Web deciding what to air on them. Nickelodeon
might run shows geared to 3-year-olds in the morning and
pre-teens in the afternoon. But Pluto.TV constantly runs
a handful of children’s programming channels with each
one aimed at a different demographic.
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channels cover music videos, news reports, action sports
and video game commentary. Channels also play just
comedy skits or real estate videos or lifestyle and
fashion content. To traditional regional TV providers,
some of the channels might seem like they target a tiny,
niche audience. But on a global basis, they’re big,
channels, activated for tributes to comedian Robin
Williams after his death or for New York Fashion Week,
have drawn "staggeringly high viewership,"
added that the company is seeing "great
adoption" overall but declined to discuss specific
usage figures. Still, content makers are excited enough
about Pluto’s prospects to sign direct and sometimes
exclusive distribution deals as opposed to having Pluto
pull their content from YouTube.
on Pluto must be consumed live or "DVR’ed."
Enamored by the set programming schedule, some companies
have turned to Pluto to premiere or air specials.
Exclusives have included coverage of this year’s Comic
Con pop culture convention, the 2014 Asian Games
sporting event and a marathon of online sitcom
"Real Adult Feelings."
human curators gives Pluto, named after the underdog
"planet," an elite feel that’s appealing to
content owners, Ryan said. He’s not a fan of using
just social recommendations or algorithms to unearth
creating channels like a studio, and we’re programming
channels like a network and aggregating audience like a
cable operator," Ryan said. "We can’t be
good at all of those things at scale, so we’re
focusing on one and three and partnering with the best
month, Pluto announced $13 million in investment from
United Talent Agency, British broadcaster Sky and
Silicon Valley venture capital firm U.S. Venture
Partners. Pluto is making money from advertising and
shares an undisclosed amount of revenue with partners.
YouTube has traditionally shared 55 percent with video
makers, a static figure that has left veteran producers
such as Fred Seibert feeling slighted.
who had key executive roles at MTV and Nickelodeon in
their early years, oversees online video studio
Frederator Networks. He’s been able to build a
business off posting on YouTube. But he’s been waiting
for nine years for the economics to become more
favorable to him.
hopeless optimism remains," he said, though like
others he’s regularly looking elsewhere.
"elsewhere" is growing wider.
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for instance, focuses on news videos. Adriano Farano,
the Palo Alto startup’s chief executive, said he saw
an opportunity to create a "Hulu for news
videos" because YouTube isn’t designed to deliver
a curated newscast.
reinventing the traditional TV scheme with an approach
truly borrowed from the Internet and millennial
generation," Farano said. "We want to stick to
news because every product should have a strong
month, local media owners McClatchy Co. and Tribune
Media signed on as investors and content providers.
a video destination founded by Jason Kilar, the former
chief executive of Hulu, is expected to launch soon and
is reported to be an outlet for viewers to purchase
early access to content that might later appear on
YouTube for the masses.
is capturing market share at the expense of YouTube, and
both Yahoo and AOL are trying to. Content producers have
said videos they upload directly to Facebook have seen
strong viewership, in part driven by Facebook’s recent
emphasis on promoting videos in users’ news feeds and
by a feature that automatically begins playing a video
as a user scrolls past it. When advertising will begin
rather than share big chunks of revenue with YouTube or
potentially Facebook, many of the top content producers
on YouTube are also experimenting with delivering video
through their own destinations, such as talk show host
Ellen DeGeneres recently launching Ellentube.com.
their assistance have come start-ups such as Beachfront
Media and Dotstudioz. Through a system it calls
dotstudioPro, Dotstudioz says, video makers can post
their content anywhere, including on Facebook, personal
websites or apps for the growing market of smart TVs and
streaming media players. They can also air ads or lock
the content behind a pay wall.
wanted to extend the moneymaking opportunities for
creators well beyond the walled garden of YouTube,"
said Joe Pascual, the startup’s chief executive.
"This management platform is our contribution to
the evolution of content distribution."
Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki, appointed in February,
has said it’s crucial to growth that her team keep
pace with outside innovation. This fall, YouTube has
advertised top content producers, including SciShow and
scripted series "Video Game High School," on
cable TV, buses and billboards in major cities.
Highlighting some of its best content through
traditional advertising has been YouTube’s expensive
answer to a major problem brought on by its growth: It’s
easy for users to get lost in a gigantic mall of video.
the creator of what’s essentially a tour guide
company, Pluto’s Pozin has satisfied another lady in
his house too. His wife, Briana, a follower of fashion
trends, had no idea that the quality of fashion-related
videos on YouTube was so high, Pozin said. Now, she can
get the best of the best on Pluto channels.
took someone like me, knowing it was her area of
passion, to bring it to her," he said. "She
sat there for hours."