BroadbandTV Inks $36-Million Deal with RTL Group

BroadbandTV CEO Shahrzad Rafati | BCBusiness
CEO Shahrzad Rafati founded BroadbandTV in 2005 shortly after graduating from UBC

European entertainment and broadcasting network RTL Group has invested $36-million in Vancouver-based online video company BroadbandTV Corp.

The investment in BroadbandTV, founded in 2005 by CEO Shahrzad Rafati, represents the largest financial placement in a Canadian Internet media company since 2007, says Brent Holliday, BroadbandTV’s VP of Corporate Development.

Winner of the top spot in the BCBusiness 2012 Innovators rankings, BroadbandTV is a YouTube aggregator that detects videos uploaded by fans and allows creators to monetize the content. Currently the fifth-largest online multi-channel network, its seen video views rose by 169 per cent year-over-year to 2.1 billion in the first quarter of this year, and its network of 7,800 partners includes heavyweights like Discovery Communications.

The partnership will enhance BroadbandTV’s access to RTL Group’s content expertise, advertising sales and media libraries, which includes such well-known TV brands as “The X Factor,” “Pop Idol” and “The Price Is Right,” says Rafati, a UBC computer science graduate.

As part of the agreement, RTL Group will acquire a 51-per-cent shareholding in BroadbandTV and will appoint three members to the company’s board. 

Global media conglomerates Time Warner and Comcast Ventures have made moves into the online video space in the past year. In 2012 Time Warner made a $25 million investment in Maker, a producer and distributor of video content on YouTube.

“Large media companies are taking their digital strategies seriously,” Rafati says. 

The company has plans to open up offices in New York City, Los Angeles and Berlin, Germany, where RTL Group parent company Bertelsmann is based. BroadbandTV has 56 employees mostly in its Vancouver office and a network of around 100 contractors, and has plans to expand its head count in Vancouver, says Rafati.

“There’s a lot of great talent here,” says Rafati, “hopefully this brings more talents and help’s B.C.’s technology sector grow and raise funds.”