Popcornflix - AVOD - online video startups - Fierce 15 2015

Where it's based: New York, N.Y.
When it was founded: 2010
Website: www.popcornflix.com

Why it's Fierce: Popcornflix has been offering a library of movie and TV content on-demand, at no cost to consumers, for nearly four years. And while there are quite a few other ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) providers sitting in the app lineup of streaming devices like Roku, Popcornflix has stayed apace of its chief counterpart, Sony-operated Crackle, despite having far fewer resources available.

"We've got the most widely distributed platform" among AVOD providers of its type, David Fannon, CFO at Popcornflix, told FierceOnlineVideo.

The service--not to be confused with torrent-aggregator software Popcorn Time--launched mobile apps for Android and iOS devices within a year of its 2011 beta, and is available on Roku streaming devices, Xbox consoles and BlackBerry 10. In spring of 2015, Popcornflix became a native app on Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV stick as well as on Sony's PlayStation console, and it will launch on Google's Chromecast in June. "We're on every device except Apple TV," Fannon said.

Popcornflix is the offspring of Screen Media Ventures, a movie distribution company that owned a good-sized library of content: about 1,000 titles. But, like similar distributors AmPopFilms and Shout Factory, Screen Media found the market for DVDs was shrinking, while licensing its content through online outlets like Hulu was complex. "We thought there was an opportunity for an independent company with a lot of film assets to take its own place in this industry space," Fannon said. Screen Media put all of its assets into Popcornflix, launching the new company in 2010.

Shifting from a distribution model that was entirely B2B-focused to a model that brought its owned content directly to consumers was a bit of a transition, Fannon said. "We had to deal with two new facets: the technology [involved], and trying to market ourselves to consumers."

The company tapped Brightcove to support its streaming platform and help Popcornflix integrate with third-party advertising networks. Ads on Popcornflix roll ahead of and during the movies (also known as pre-roll and spot ads).  As a business model, ad-supported online video doesn't offer the up-front revenue boost that subscription-based video seems to do. But it has its advantages.

"For an independent, [AVOD] might be easier to get into," Fannon said. "For the bigger players, the lure of the easy money on subscription is attractive."

Popcornflix's growth has been entirely organic, Fannon said, with no venture or seed funding. Building on Screen Media's original content library, the provider has steadily added new films and TV series.

"Movies are our most popular genre. Seventy-five percent of our viewers watch a long-form movie. We've been expanding into TV series, and that audience is growing," Fannon said. "Our revenues have doubled over the past year." The provider's website impressions are up by 50 percent this year, and it expects that number to continue climbing, thanks in large part to its inclusion on the PlayStation platform, one that Fannon noted is extremely hard to get onto but which has paid off in "phenomenal" viewing numbers so far. Fannon declined to provide specific numbers.

What's next: Although it's a small fish in a pond quickly crowding with new OTT players, Popcornflix and other AVOD providers may see their cachet rise. Fannon feels that consumers will set their own limit on how many SVOD services they will pay for, and the attractiveness of finding more on-demand content at no extra cost will bring viewers in.

"In this space, we're looking at one in three households with an OTT device. So we haven't even matured yet," Fannon concluded.

Popcornflix - AVOD - online video startups - Fierce 15 2015