Situation: Break.com launched in November 2005 during the first wave of video-sharing sites that emerged to capitalize on the Web video opportunity. The company's goal has been to serve as an online entertainment channel for the Spike TV and Comedy Central male demographic. In the early days, the site was populated primarily with user-generated videos ? such as a clip of a young guy who uses a nail to pierce his ear. For the last two years, the site has consistently featured eight new videos each day. The most popular videos are those that elicit an emotional reaction, such as a girl eating a praying mantis, and topical parodies related to current events. Break attracted 17 million unique visitors in June, up 40 percent from a year ago, according to the company's internal numbers. The company should be profitable through ad sales by the fourth quarter.
The Problem: By mid-2006, Break had tapped out the advertising potential of third-party sites and Google AdSense. To continue growing the company, Break needed to reach out to brand advertisers, said CEO Keith Richman. The company has grown its sales staff from zero to 13 in the last year to reach out to agencies and marketers across the country.
The Solution: In the last several months, Break has struck content and promotional deals with high-profile entertainment brands, such as NBC, Endemol and horror film studio Twisted Pictures to create higher quality, more professional fare for fall launches. By layering in more produced content that still fits the Break brand, the site hoped to build its credibility with major advertisers. "The more brands you work with the more other brands you work with," Mr. Richman said. Break reached out to beer maker Keystone and created a branded channel dubbed "Keystone Unsmooth" to tie into the marketer's "Unsmooth" tag line. The goal was to expose the beer brand to Break's 21- to 35-year-old audience. With that channel, Keystone sponsors videos of guys doing "unsmooth things," such as tripping and falling down a hill. The videos come from Break's archive.
Evaluation: The channel launched in May and will run through the end of August. By mid-July it had generated 5 million views. In June, Break attracted 17 million unique visitors, up from 16.1 million in May, making June its biggest month ever. The user comments on the channel praising the videos also underscored the brand exposure in the key demo, Mr. Richman said. "They had created a brand identity for this beer that was appealing to guys in our demographic," he said. In the future, Mr. Richman said he'd like to find a way to engage viewers more deeply, perhaps with a stronger interface for comments or a more actionable way to drive traffic to an advertiser's site. "What we can really do to differentiate is help [advertisers] form a relationship with their users like we have with our users," he said.