This month Blip announced it was producing an original comedy web series called Mainly Murder with established TV comedian Rob Huebel. The announcement comes off the back of previous statements from the video hosting site that they were introducing an application form process for uploading new content, and that last year they were launching a new production-focused wing called Blip Studios. Blip is stepping into the realm of quality content production and management, rather than simply hosting.
Blip, having been around since 2005, is an elder statesman of the internet video world. However, it always seemed destined to be the poor relative to the gargantuan YouTube and the sleek Vimeo. Carving out a name and a niche for your video platform site was never going to be easy faced with competition like that. So far, Blip has been happy playing off it’s indie credentials (and a very stable video player), it explicitly focused on hosting independent series-based videos, most famously the Nostalgia Critic videos.
So it seems pretty logical for them play to their strengths, and start going for fewer and higher quality video series’. Given that YouTube has become a home, not just for viral videos and vlogs, but web-series as well, it’s hard to see how Blip could have gone anywhere else.
Blip Studios is pitched as a high-quality alliance between talented content creators and Blip funding and management, launching contract-based exclusive content. The studio’s site describes their approach as “developing and producing new and original content for distribution through the Blip network” claiming it arose out of “the need to offer advertisers, producers and talent the ability to create original series in key genres that deliver their messages to targeted audiences.” This startling focus on producing content for and with advertisers and businesses, a process they call “Branded Entertainment” is a major linchpin of the new studio’s model. Despite the depressing and near-meaningless management newspeak quoted above, the content produced so far by the studio is made with genuine talent and is genuinely entertaining. Tongue-in-cheek X-Factor for gamers show The Gauntlet is entertaining enough without being constantly sold to by major backer Geico insurance. It’s not clear whether Mainly Murder will be launched under this banner, or simply on standard Blip.
The problem, however, with Blip Studios, is that it’s not entirely clear what the point of it is. Blip is almost certainly able to fund new shows if they want to, but since their introduction of the application process for uploading content it’s not entirely clear why they can’t just pick from those pre-vetted shows instead. The “Branded Entertainment” aspect, similarly, does not appear to need a separate branch of the company to implement. It could simply match up already approved shows to advertisers. Since the launch of the application process, it seems like Blip could now do everything Blip Studios does just as a matter of course. Possibly their most successful partnership, that with Nostalgia Critic, could just as easily be done through regular video hosting partnerships. Tellingly there doesn’t appear to have been anything new happening with the studio branch of Blip for the past few months, raising questions over whether the site’s ownership have realised its redundancy.
This is of course not to say that there is nothing interesting about what Blip is doing, just that it appears to be something of a random hodge-podge of ideas currently. Starting your own studio is an interesting approach for a video hosting site, but without an actual, physical studio like YouTube has, we are left wondering what it is that is supposed to be new here. Similarly, launching partnerships between advertisers and content producers is certainly a way to get money into the system, but it’s unclear why there needs to be a special section of Blip where this happens. Ultimately, Blip’s innovations are a step in a positive direction. Making web content creation financially viable, with an assurance of quality is something desperately needed on the web, and if Blip can adequately support that ambition then they will find themselves becoming a much bigger player in the world of online video. However, they need to work out exactly what they want the Blip Studios brand to do, otherwise, it’s just an unnecessary extra middleman in the process of creating serious partnerships.♦ End