Ooyala says 2009 was breakout year; OVP expects 2010 to be brilliant

Jim O'Neil

Ooyala, the soon-to-be-three-year-old online video platform, had a good year in 2009. It's expecting a great year in 2010. The company has seen an upsurge of clients under contract, is expanding aggressively and topped 100 million unique users last year.

"2009 was a breakaway year for us at Ooyala, Bismarck Lepe, co-founder and president of products for the company told FierceOnlineVideo. "When I look back 14 months ago, the number of companies that we really saw as competition, well, we were competing against 25 or 30 companies. From a clients perspective, it was hard to differentiate between us. But through 2009 we introduced new features, new analytics, we supported live streaming. These were table-stake features that changed how we were perceived." Ooyala made it a tougher choice for clients, announcing it, would become the latest OVP to offer a TV Everywhere solution.

In November, Forrester Research named Ooyala as a leader in the OVP space, along with arch rival Brightcove. Forrester evaluated six U.S. OVPs on their current offering, strategy and market presence and believed Ooyala's "expansion of its services arm and partnership ecosystem will enable it to take on the largest enterprise clients."

Lepe said Ooyala's customer base currently is about 50 percent marketers and 50 percent media companies looking to monetize their content. Initially, the company did what most OVPs did-it focused on helping its partners increase the average CPMs they were getting from advertising.

"As we became more of a presence in the market, as we became more stable, we began to focus on larger media companies, which in turn were willing to invest in Ooyala's technology," he said. "They began to believe we would be around for 12, 24, 36 months down the road. And that's a big deal in this industry; a media company makes a huge investment in our business; they need to know that we're going to be around a long time."

The commitment from those companies has begun to pay off, and Ooyala has seen dramatic growth. Its customer base has increased from 12 to more than 300 contracted enterprises. It's also seen its employee base grow from 29 to 75.

"We expect to more than double those numbers in 2010," Lepe said.

Ooyala also hit a milestone with its live streaming play this year, reaching more than 1 million unique users. Some of its growth in live streaming is attributable to its adoption of adaptive bitrate delivery, which adjusts the quality of the live stream dynamically as the user's viewing environment changes, giving users on a broadband connection a near-HD quality viewing experience.

"We are seeing exponential growth in the usage of our live streaming technology by our publishers," said Lepe. "Our partners are providing audiences a unique experience they can't get anywhere else."

Since its founding by ex-Googlers, Lepe, his brother Belsasar Lepe and Sean Knapp, Ooyala has focused on building a business with differentiated technology. In August, Jay Fulcher came on board as CEO, helping to position the company to pursue an aggressive global growth plan. Ooyala's offshore push has helped by a $10 million Series C funding round, bringing its total to $20 million.

 "International is a big focus for us," said Lepe, "and we plan to continue to build on those relationships." Some 60 percent of the 100 million uniques that Ooyala recorded in 2009 were from international markets.

"We're investing heavily in Europe and in Japan and we're starting to look at other markets where we will be having field offices," Lepe said. "Latin America has seen breakaway growth for us."

Just after the first of the year, Ooyala announced it had partnered with the U.K.'s Telegraph Media Group. It also announce it was accelerating its entry into the Japanese market with a localized video publishing platform, opening a door into a strong expansion into the market in Asia.

In "As You Like It," Shakespeare wrote "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages." It's Ooyala's turn to take the stage. -Jim

P.S. Join me at 2 p.m., Wednesday, March 3 for a free FierceOnlineVideo webinar that looks at "Successfully monetizing online video content." Speakers include YuMe co-founder and president Jayant Kadambi, ScanScout's VP of publisher services Erwin Castellanos, and Jason Arend, director of eCommerce, online marketing and creative services for Western wear company PFI. Click here for more information and to register.