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Growth Vancouver's BroadbandTV making major waves in online video world

‘We really want to build the strongest ecosystem in online video,’ said Broadband TV’s Iranian-born founder and CEO Shahrzad Rafati.

Fast-growing, Vancouver-based BroadbandTV is emerging into one of the most dominant online video purveyors in the world. The 10-year-old company said Thursday it is now the largest "multiplatform network" in the world, boasting 319 million unique video viewers on desktop computers in December, according to comScore data, vaulting past previous leader Maker Studios Inc., a unit of Walt Disney Co.

The company said viewership increased 219 per cent year over year, and videos shown on its online network reached 14 billion, making BroadbandTV the fifth-most-viewed purveyor of video properties globally, behind Google, Facebook, Sohu.com and LETV, and ahead of music powerhouses Vevo and Warner.

"We really want to build the strongest ecosystem in online video," said BroadbandTV's Iranian-born founder and chief executive officer Shahrzad Rafati, 36, who came to Canada when she was 17 to study computer science at the University of British Columbia. She sold 51 per cent of the company to European entertainment conglomerate RTL Group in 2013 for $36-million (U.S.). "The goal was never to be number-one [but] to build the strongest ecosystem in the space. … We want to be the linchpin at the centre of it all to really advance online video while helping content owners and creators become more successful through better distribution and better monetization."

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BroadbandTV works with 74,000 partners, including content owners and creators ranging from music giant BMG, the National Basketball Association and Huffington Post to display advertising-supported videos on YouTube and other online channels using its in-house technology. BroadbandTV has focused on building five verticals – music, children's and family entertainment, gaming, journalism and entertainment – using its software engine to help content owners upload and present videos, increase the Internet presence of the videos, and then to analyze the viewership data to determine how they can generate additional revenue.

"We try to go very deep in terms of our value proposition," Ms. Rafati said. One of the company's big hits was a partnership last year with electronic dance music act Major Lazer, whose video for the international hit Lean On was viewed more than a billion times on the Internet.

The company has a proprietary search algorithm that ferrets out video content uploaded to YouTube that violates copyright law, enabling the content's rightful owners to share the ad revenues that are generated. "You're really optimizing distribution and monetization of all those instances of content," Ms. Rafati said.

Although the company doesn't disclose financial information, industry sources say annualized revenues now top $100-million.

BroadbandTV owes most of its success to its hard-driving, rapid-fire CEO, one of Canada's most successful female technology entrepreneurs and a relentless deal-maker who last week appeared on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos with musical stars Bono and Will.i.am, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.

"The YouTube guys love her," said Brent Holliday, CEO of Vancouver-based Garibaldi Capital Advisors, and a financial adviser to BroadbandTV. "We need more examples like her. It doesn't matter that she is female or Iranian-Canadian – she's a phenomenally hard working, dedicated CEO. I haven't met anyone, male or female, as dedicated as her."

Ms. Rafati said the company is focusing on diversifying revenue beyond advertising to encompass subscription and e-commerce transactions as well, and to expand beyond its current 15 markets.

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