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Iceland-based Oz set to launch, aiming to give YouTube a chill

Zach Miners | April 9, 2015
Oz is a new paid subscription service offering videos designed around premium content that aims to take on sites like YouTube.

oz logo

Would you pay to watch your favorite band go on a road trip? Or shell out five dollars for a short film series, with a new installment each week?

Oz will host that content, and charge you for it. The company will launch on Thursday a new video platform to let up-and-coming artists, small businesses and even journalists publish videos online, gather metrics about their performance, and charge viewers to watch. The Iceland-based company wants to help those sorts of people make money -- ideally earn a living -- from their work at a time when practically anything can be gotten online for free. Oz videos will be accessible on the Web as well as on iOS and Android.

Premium or exclusive content will be the focus. So instead of album tracks from a band, you might get live outtakes, or exclusive interviews from the studio, or footage from a road trip.

Many of today's free, ad-supported services -- like YouTube or Spotify -- operate like a buffet, whereby users can freely pick what they want, but nothing is one-of-a-kind, said Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson, Oz's founder and CEO.

Oz, he said, is like a boutique restaurant.

He might be right. Oz's site looks polished, like a classier version of YouTube. With roughly 30 employees at launch, Oz is more than 10 years in the making; the first prototype of Oz's service was developed in 2004. And Gudjonsson is no stranger to the tech industry, having played key roles in the development of European telecommunications companies like Magnet Networks and Industria.

The questions is whether Oz can attract enough viewers for its video producers to make good money.

The site will let artists and businesses create custom channels for showcasing their videos, and set their own monthly fee for viewers to access the content. The minimum charge will be $1.99 per month, though Oz is recommending most channel creators charge around $5 per month. Oz videos can be created and accessed globally, and will support payments in 120 different currencies. The company takes a 30 percent cut of producers' revenue.

For video producers who can build a following, the payout seems enticing. By charging $5 monthly, 1,000 monthly subscribers could generate $42,000 in gross annual revenue for a channel creator, Oz says.

Oz is likely to face big challenges attracting viewers, as other online services look to provide their own exclusive entertainment content. Tidal, Jay Z's new paid music streaming service, is placing an emphasis on exclusive content, as well as its "artist-owned" status. Apple, meanwhile, is reportedly angling for rights to exclusive content for its planned Beats service.

 

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