Brightcove, Surviving the Recession, Seeks New Fortune in Cloud Content

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Late last year, Brightcove rolled out its second major product line, called App Cloud. This is a cloud-based software platform for customers to develop, deploy, and manage apps for smartphones and tablets. These are not necessarily video-based apps; the software is designed broadly for digital media and content apps. So Brightcove now has some overlap with Urban Airship and Appcelerator—a couple of West Coast startups we have followed in the past—as well as a slew of mobile app development platforms. One question is whether any of these approaches can really make much money.

Whatcott emphasizes that managing digital media in the cloud makes it “easier to distribute, monetize, analyze and measure, share, and protect, and easier to personalize content into the right hands.” Brightcove’s DNA is in video tech (and it made the leap from Flash to other formats), but its expertise should also apply to other types of content. “We want to provide cloud content services,” Whatcott says, and do it “very cost effectively.”

So where’s the money in all this? Brand marketing, perhaps. A luxury clothing brand, for example, could use Brightcove’s app platform to build relationships with its existing customers, through things like sending push notifications (if there’s a special event or sale going on), running a location-based ad campaign, or enabling in-store purchases via mobile phones. Or, a TV show could push out an app for fans that has exclusive content or features, say.

That brings up an ongoing debate over the role of the Web versus apps for digital content. Whatcott has some thoughts on that too. “To a large degree it is a moot debate,” he says. “It’s not either/or, it’s both.” A brand or TV show is not going to use a downloadable app to reach new customers or fans, he says. It will use its website—perhaps a mobile-optimized website—to draw in new people. “That’s what the Web was built for, serendipitous discovery,” he says. “The Web will always be supreme there. But once you’ve made your first purchase with a brand, I think that’s an appropriate time for the brand to say, ‘We have an app.’”

Where Brightcove is looking to grow, then, is in helping companies manage various kinds of content for a variety of purposes. “Lots of different content can be managed in the cloud. There are lots of different ways to create content experiences. People tend to think about Brightcove as the video company, but we’ve evolved way beyond that,” says Whatcott. “A new category of software is being established—cloud content services. That’s the opportunity we see ourselves attacking.”

As for the company’s immediate future, he says, “customers are growing and revenue is growing.”

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