“Prom Queen: Summer Heat” – the blinkx interview

Grant Crowell interviews Suranga Chandratillake, founder and CEO of the video search engine blinkx, on their partnership announcement today with media studio Vuguru to exclusively broadcast the Emmy-nominated video series “Prom Queen,” and on the future of professional-grade, internet-only scripted and produced video content with search.

SEW: Suranga, you mentioned in blinkx’s press release that the Prom Queen series is a “pioneering format” for online video which “has proven tremendously successful in the new media landscape.” What, in your opinion, has made this series most popular with online viewers? The short length? Subject matter? Professional production quality and studio backing? Or a combination of all those things?

It’s a really interesting question. I don’t really know, but its proven to be immensely popular. A couple things that do work is that its just really good content; it’s watchable and creative, because you have professionals at every stage – writing, acting, producing – exclusively for online viewing. And I think the short length works extremely well. It’s a type of “snack mentality” that you get, which also matches the structure of the blinkx home page. So I think the physical format plus the show length has been critical for making it so popular.

One smart thing that the show producers, Vuguru, did is they picked a demographic that works online. If you look at all the stats in video, there’s obvious a bias towards a younger audience – high school, college – that sort of thing. The content specifically fits that demographic. Its not to say there aren’t people who are middle age or older who watch video or whatever else, but rather than try to sell a smaller audience on a certain piece of content, it makes sense to go for the audience that’s already there. All of those things have helped in its success.

SEW: Do you believe this will lead to a market for more exclusively Internet-scripted/produced drama? And if so, would blinkx be featuring similar pieces from this studio? Other studios?

Yes, definitely. We think there is a great audience out there for this type of content; and we think that Vuguru has tapped into it, they’ve done a good job with it, and we expect there to be a lot more. You can look at what’s happened at a similar video site, Funny or Die – a lot of its video content there is short-form, scripted, and with a professional background. There are other video sites that do similar things as well.

Until now, a lot of the professional or semi-professional stuff has come from Silicon Valley-style companies. You’ve seen things like Revision3 and so on, which is great in that it taps into the tech audience very well, but it hasn’t really tapped into the mainstream audience. I think the success of Prom Queen is going to lead to a lot more people paying attention to this and doing work on this area.

SEW: Will these episodes also show up concurrently on the promqueen.tv website, or does blinkx have an exclusive “first run”?

Its concurrent (running alongside promqueen.tv), so its more of a super-distribution [through the blinkx network]. The video series will now be findable through all of the usual network sites that we power along with the blinkx video search space.

SEW: What type of advertising will this content be supported by? How will it appear on the web page?

Both blinkx and Vuguru can serve our own advertising on the content. In this case, we’ll be doing short pre-roll and post-roll ads. They’ll be produced in various points and various campaigns during the showing. We’re also going to be showing overlay ads down the road. There’s a lot of interest in overlay ads from our advertisers, so we’re going to be trying them out over the next couple months.

SEW: What kind of revenue-sharing program have you worked out with Vuguru?

We will be sharing revenue with Vuguru based on the number of views.

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