Insider Interview: Benedicte Guichard of Cleeng

Benedicte Guichard of Cleeng

In this new series of interviews with industry thought leaders, Mediander explores emerging developments in the fast-changing video on demand (VOD) and streaming TV space. For our kickoff, we spoke with Benedicte Guichard of Cleeng, based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Cleeng is a service that streams, monetizes and protects live events for major companies in the U.S. and Europe, and it just recently completed a project with HBO.

Can we start with how Cleeng “got to now,” so to speak?

Cleeng is pretty much CEO and founder Gilles Domartini’s idea and vision. Gilles and I had known each other originally from working with Packard Bell and NEC. He was so convincing when he explained it to me and the three other founders, that we all signed on.

Back in 2010 there was a lot of discussion about paywalls in the press, and Gilles, after years of building e-commerce platforms for Apple and Philips, came up with a much better solution. Cleeng would allow people to preview an article or video before buying it, and then give access upon purchase. In this way, media houses would allow people access to their websites (and keep their advertising revenues) but still charge for their content. Then Donald Res, our CTO, who had worked for years with Gilles at Philips, joined Cleeng. We finally launched at The Next Web Europe 2011.

We signed significant deals within the online publishing industry, but Cleeng was growing slowly. Then in 2013, we received a phone call from Viaplay, a Scandinavian broadcaster that was looking for a pay-per-view solution for a boxing match. Our solution was already working well for video content, so we enabled Viaplay to charge boxing fans to access the fight live online. Seeing the success of this live event was a true wake-up call for Cleeng, and we realized the potential of live events online, especially for sports. So in 2014 we completely pivoted the company to build the best dedicated e-commerce platform for live video.

cleeng landing page
Screen shot of Cleeng.com.

I understand you recently worked on a major boxing event with HBO, the WBC and Golden Boy Promotions. That’s quite a deal. Tell us about it.

 Boxing is the sport that drives the pay-per-view industry, and one of the biggest organizations in the boxing world, Golden Boy Promotions, reached out to us with a challenge: securely handle and market a U.S. mega-fight via online PPV—in one week.

Our team was proud to deliver, on time, a robust landing page capable of hosting 100,000 visitors with a redundant live-streaming infrastructure as backup and the advanced watermarking security to prevent piracy. The fight took place in Las Vegas, and we are in Amsterdam, so unfortunately we could not meet the boxers, but we were all up at 4 a.m. on D-day to watch the fight online. It was a success. We prevented all piracy activity and any revenue loss for the publisher. One thing that surprised us is that we recorded more transactions from mobile devices than from PCs.

Given the unexpected mobile response, how has that informed your initiatives in streaming video?

Our data shows that mobile usage of both live and on-demand video is rising exponentially, and we are doing our best to ensure that video quality on mobile is exceptional. Multi-device accessibility has always been one of our focal points. People love using streaming media devices when they are home, and we are working on strengthening our service in that area. And, based on the feedback of our American audience, we developed our own Cleeng Roku channel, and we even helped a few of our client broadcasters do the same.

Cleeng office
The Cleeng team in their Amsterdam office.

Are concerts and music festivals an opportunity for Cleeng?

For sure. Live-streaming of concerts aims to reshape how we consume music. By making it accessible online, musicians and broadcasters can reach larger crowds and grow revenue. In addition to democratizing events, live-streaming has the potential to add an extra dimension for the fans. The mass acceptance of mobile, live-streaming apps and virtual reality means that viewers can get exceptional video content across devices and a completely different experience. This could include behind-the-scenes video, a 360-degree experience, celebrity interviews and more.

In the U.S., the major festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and Made in America are already being streamed online, and fans love it. One of the big positives is that live-streaming does not cannibalize the already existing event business. Instead, the video and live event models are complementary, and we are seeing that both online and offline ticket sales are on the rise. Now the challenge for broadcasters and the event organizers is to find the ideal business and revenue model. Technology drives this business forward, so it’s fair to say that the potential is there and up for grabs.

Can you tell us about the business models that you are considering now, and compare that to what your team thinks it will look like in five years?

Currently publishers mainly use pay-per-view, subscriptions and passes to sell their content. Pay-per-view is a proven revenue model for one-off live events, especially within the sports and business (conferences) verticals. Subscriptions and passes work best for clients involved in broadcasting entertainment (movies, music, league-based sports). But we have noticed publishers are becoming more creative in designing flexible packages to attract and nurture loyal viewers. Our business model, for example, is based on a revenue share. We charge a fee per transaction, but we also propose an enterprise license for large publishers that require more flexibility and expect to generate significant revenue all-year-long.

More and more, we think that there will be a need in the future to increase and improve the sale of videos. Our ambition is to become the go-to company for video publishers. Thanks to the expertise we are building, we are positioned to be the leader in content and pricing strategy, conversion-rate improvement and piracy reduction, all of which helps the content owners make the most of their video assets.

For more information on Cleeng, visit its website here.

Photos courtesy of Cleeng.