In 2019, Laminar — the company I co-founded with Kumar Shorav, Raheel Khursheed, Tirthraj Singh, and Yin Shanyang in 2019 — set out to create the tech infrastructure every media company would need, sooner or later. This bet seemed like a sure thing — it was based on our experience and understanding on how the media makes money.
Here's the three step process that media companies you know and love use to make money — they create (or buy) content, they distribute that content, they get paid.
The old model had two big players — the content creators (think Disney or Paramount) and the distributors (think Sky). The content creators built relationships with their distributors who paid them (sometimes a lot). The distributors went out and found subscribers and viewers and sold ads and did everything else in between (set top box installations, anyone?).
The key to making money, as you may have guessed, lies in distribution.
You might think I'm going to talk transformational tech here, but I'm not (well, I will, but not yet). Let me talk about Netflix for a moment.
Here's a short excerpt from a great article in Wired by Jeffrey M. O'Brien from Dec 1, 2002 — The Netflix Effect.
While other video-on-demand companies build businesses around broadband, Netflix is taking a half-step toward the digital future with mass-produced DVDs ($1 each) and an old-fashioned delivery mechanism: the US mail. The company has less than 2 percent of the $8 billion video rental market, but it doubled its customer base to 750,000 this year, and Hastings projects a million customers, and profitability, in 2003. Since subscribers pay up front, Netflix also has the steadiest revenue stream the industry has ever seen.Netflix offers a low tech video-on-demand alternative (to video store rentals). Jon and Alys subscribe to a $19.95 plan that allows them to rent as many movies as they want in a month, but no more than three at a time. After they watch a film and return it in a postage-paid envelope, the company mails them the next DVD from a list the couple maintain on their Netflix Web page, which offers recommendations based on their rental history. (Liked The Royal Tenenbaums? Try Ghost World.) If Netflix is out of Kissing Jessica Stein, Jon and Alys just receive the next movie on the list. On Friday, they have Donnie Darko, Piñero, and In the Bedroom on top of their DVD player. They love Donnie Darko, mail it back on Saturday, and by Tuesday, Y Tu Mamá También arrives. It's so convenient that the average Netflix customer watches five movies a month. Some subscribers rent twenty or more. (Which is a problem: Netflix loses money on postage for households that rent more than five a month.)
Long before Netflix and chill was a thing, they cracked DVD distribution. The chosen method for customers to watch what they wanted, when they wanted, were DVD players. The biggest distributors of DVDs back then — Blockbuster and Walmart. Netflix came along and up-ended the game, quickly establishing themselves as the people who distributed DVDs the best AND treated their customers the best.
"The dream 20 years from now," Hastings says, "is to have a global entertainment distribution company that provides a unique channel for film producers and studios."
That dream has come true — but differently than Hastings imagined. Netflix has gone from being the only streaming distributor (worth talking about) to being a direct-to-consumer content company.
And in doing so, they have forced the entire global media industry to a new equilibrium that is still in the making.
Which is where we come in.
I will let our lead investor Leo Capital founding partner Rajul Garg's insightful comment do the talking: "Media companies can see content consumption rapidly shifting away from cable, satellite and DTH around the world. Laminar has timed this industry transition beautifully with a product that is ready today for media companies who don't want to spend time and money re-inventing the wheel and we are excited to partner them to help create the next global leader in the media-tech space."
Our thesis is simple — it's really hard for media companies to become engineering companies. They haven't had to for other modes of distribution, they shouldn't have to now. We've built a cloud-based, fully-managed PaaS that enables content owners to launch a full featured, massively scalable, OTT service. It is transformational tech because importantly, they can focus on what they do best — create content and win audiences.
We offer speed — content owners can launch a global OTT service in 12-weeks or less.
We offer completeness — companies get the ability to customise and launch apps across all classes of devices, set up multiple types of monetisation options, meet all tax and compliance requirements, and get a complete data and analytics suite — all out of the box.
We offer a price advantage — with a zero-capex, pure-opex model, media companies can spend their dollars on what their customers really want — content.
Chaupal, a global streaming app targeting 200 million Punjabi and Bhojpuri speakers around the world, chose to launch using Laminar's PaaS. In 12 weeks they launched in 110 countries, with country specific plans, content and UI across all classes of mobile phones, TVs and other streaming devices.
According to Chaupal founder and MD Sandeep Bansal, Laminar has enabled both his vision and his ambition by allowing the Chaupal organisation to focus on what they do best — creating amazing content and delight audiences:
"Laminar has been a game-changer for us. We were able to focus time, money and attention on what we know best. Their business model is the best thing about them — ensuring we win together, always."
We have already won customers in the US, South Asia and South-East Asia. And we are just getting started.
Our grand ambition is to power the Direct-to-Consumer media (r)evolution.
Talk to us if you are a content owner with grand ambitions.
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