Tech Startups 1 million
Over 800,000 point to point streams a day. That’s the kind of number that a web video startup dreams of. But that number isn’t from my current venture, FreeCast Inc’s Rabbit TV Plus. It isn’t even from this decade. My previous company, MegaMedia Networks, pioneered the online no-download streaming video business with our online media portal known as, reaching 800,000 streams a day in an era when your average modem delivered speeds of 56 kbps, when Yahoo was the world’s most popular website with about 1.5 million visitors a day, and before DRM came into existence. We hired execs from Yahoo, Hardrock, and companies, making major deals with studios to stream Hollywood blockbusters over the internet almost a decade before YouTube or Netflix came along. All of this was achieved in the late 1990s, and while we were prepared to sell the company and its video platform to one of the tech giants of the time, that was when the dot com bubble burst, and our advertising revenue dried up, dashing any hopes of a major sale.
Fast-forward to 2011, and that’s when the story of FreeCast begins. With YouTube and Netflix gaining popularity, I set out to do something different, having been there and done that already. Instead, this time we approached the business from the content aggregation view, in what was honestly a little bit of an experiment. Our first test was streaming Super Bowl XLVI live to an online audience. It was a huge success, proving to us and the world that web delivered video wasn’t just a passing fad, it was the future.
We followed that success by streaming the next major sporting event that year, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. By putting the games online, we were able to offer a major advantage over traditional TV viewing. If you watched on TV, you were limited to only the events that were being shown, which generally meant matches that the United States was participating in, and final events in a specific category. But by offering the games online, we were able to show all of the events, and allow users to choose between events that were going on simultaneously. So if someone wanted to watch China playing South Korea, or other foreign teams in early stages of the competition, they could do that.
We were able to offer literally every event from the 2012 Olympics primarily by linking users to media outlets overseas that were covering their own countries’ teams. A game featuring China might not be aired in the United States, so we’d serve up a live stream from a television station in China instead. That led us to an important discovery: that it was the content itself that people wanted to watch, and that where it came from mattered little. Olympic events were no different from television shows. People don’t care whether the show they want to watch is on NBC or CBS, they don’t care if it’s delivered to them by Comcast or by Time Warner, and they don’t care if it comes to them via the internet or via cable. As long as they could get what they want to watch, we knew that consumers would embrace the most convenient and most affordable means to do so. And with cable bills frequently hitting triple digits each month, we knew that could be us, and that’s how Rabbit TV was born.
As we began to build our offering on this premise, we discovered the absolutely overwhelming amount of content that is available online. Just about every TV show you can see with cable can be seen online, with many of them costing absolutely nothing, and others costing just a few dollars in a pay-per-view format. And in addition to the hits from television, we discovered vast amounts of content made for the web, that while never having graced the cable networks, were both extremely high quality and popular. Our mission quickly became to aggregate and organize all of the Internet’s media content, making it easily accessible for our users, giving them endless choices and complete control. Today our service scrubs 2 million links each day to ensure content availability. Ultimately our efforts will change the television business completely, empowering individual users, rather than network gatekeepers. And best of all, the massive amount of content, and the combination of free and pay-per-view options, resulted not only in a far greater selection than what is offered by traditional Pay TV, but a far lower price.
Following the Olympics, we were approached by Telebrands, the company behind “As Seen on TV”. By partnering with them, we were able to get Rabbit TV into over 30,000 retail stores across America. This partnership unburdened us from the costs associated with marketing and sales, that are typically a huge and costly undertaking for startups that lack the cash to do them effectively. Our model allowed us to monetize subscription and advertisement revenues and maintain profitability from day one, and we continue to generate positive cash flow. It is a little ironic that we used a television driven marketing platform to reach an audience looking to cut ties with traditional Pay TV. In only 6 months, we reached 1 million paying subscribers, and today after 18 months of operation, we have well over 3 million. By comparison, it took Netflix 45 months to reach 1 million users. Despite being a media company, our growth has even outpaced the notoriously explosive social media sector, beating Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Pinterest with respect to time since launch.
FreeCast Inc has not achieved these impressive numbers by following in the footsteps of other startups. We’ve done this without pursuing any venture capital. I have nothing against venture capital, but a venture capitalist’s involvement with any business comes with its own set of pros and cons. So far, even without venture capital, FreeCast Inc has succeeded beyond my own expectations and those of my friends and family who have supported my efforts. I encourage all founders and entrepreneurs to think of creative ways of getting traction for their budding businesses.
This journey is just beginning. I believe we are still in the very early stages in the evolution of our product. All around us, traditional TV business models are crumbling, while we are looking to cooperate with telecoms, device manufacturers, and international content producers. With a global launch, a set top box, and even more on the horizon, this company is poised to continue growing.
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