Metacafe on its new movie channel: We're not Hulu or YouTube

Jim O'Neil

Metacafe doesn't have the size of YouTube or the premium television content of Hulu. But Metacafe CEO Erick Hachenburg says that's where his company can gain ground on both of them.

"The challenge for this space is that you have to differentiate yourself from sites like those two," he told me. "The interesting thing about both of them is that they're really in the model of a broadcast television network. All content for all people; they don't differentiate."

And that, he said, is where Metacafe is going to set itself apart. The video site--which started off its life as a YouTube clone before focusing its content--is going to offer expanded movie content in a "channel" of its own.

The channel, Metacafe Movies, won't offer actual movies, but trailers, Matacafe Movies launchessome of its own original content and as much niche content about movies that it can get its hands on from the more than 100 partners Hachenburg has lined up. And, he said, the channel will include a 3D category that users will need to use glasses that may be given away as part of a Metacafe promotion with other sponsors.

"As far as I know," he said, "it's the first of its kind."

Hachenburg said the channel is based on how cable operators have worked to offer segments of their subscriber base channels dedicated to their passions.

"We're going to do what the cable companies do when they're trying to compete with the television network: we're focusing on a particular segment of content. ESPN does sports better than NBC can do sports; CNN does news better than ABC; Comedy Central does comedy better than CBS. We think we can do movies better than anyone out there, because we think video is the best way to tell you about what's happening in the industry."

Hachenburg says Metacafe Movies will give viewers the trailers for all the blockbusters being released, but it's going to try and make its mark by giving users more of the behind the scenes stories that are captured on a movie set.

"We don't just give you the trailers, you can get trailers anywhere," he said. "But we give you interviews with the actors, the people involved in the movie. You can follow the path of an actor and see what they've done in the past. What is it about this movie that should appeal to you, and we'll let videos tell the story."

Metacafe, he says, has spent years developing its ability to fine-tune metadata around content, something that, Hachenburg believes will set Metacafe's movie channel apart from other sites that are less data savvy.

"We won't just take a generic tag, we'll take it with context," he said. "That's something we've been working on as a company for years. If you better understand the metadata, you can understand what the video is about and you can program better. We'll make sure we deliver all the content you want."

Metacafe has hired Mark Poggi, formerly of Netflix, and Steven Horn, formerly of Rotten Tomatoes, to curate premium content from every major Hollywood studio to keep film fans plugged into their passion for movies.

The company hopes brands will see it as an opportunity to connect with the 18- to 34-year-old "Entertainment Drivers" it contends drive entertainment decisions, define pop culture and determine breakout hits in the social media world. Like cable channels, Hachenburg contends, Metacafe's movie channel although smaller than a YouTube or Hulu, offers advertisers a tightly focused demographic that's easier to reach.

It's a huge change of directions for the company.

"We've evolved this business to offer premium content, user generated content," Hachenburg said. "But what we've discovered as we've evolved this business is that you really shouldn't try to be all things to all people. We need to be the cable channel for movies and entertainment."-Jim