Rightster, The Largest UK Multi-Channel Network, and Its ‘Incredible Journey’: An Interview With CEO Charlie Muirhead

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“There are two types of engineers,” Rightster CEO Charlie Muirhead tells me, as we walk through the immaculately designed London office. “Those who want to get into work at 11 a.m. and work a 12-hour day, and those who are little bit older, and want to get in at 8 a.m. and have a family and a life.” This, perhaps better than anything else, sums up Rightster, a company attempting to straddle old and new media. How is Rightster doing at this? Well, SocialBlade puts Rightster, by views, as the largest multi-channel network in the UK and the 40th largest multi-channel network in the world, just behind Disney. So what makes Rightster different from other MCNs? To answer that, let’s look at Rightster more generally.

Rightster is a multi-channel network that works predominantly with big brands to “create digital access to existing content.” Their clients include IMG Fashion, The Australian Football League, ITN and The Guardian Newspaper. Rightster’s CEO is Charlie Muirhead, a man who has worn many hats throughout his life, including being a roadie, an entrepreneur and a “terrible” electric guitarist (his words, not mine). In 1994, he created a company called Orchestream which was then sold in 2002. Muirhead cites this time in his life as having a “very steep learning curve.” He went on to found several other companies including NexAgent, iGabriel and InterProvider.

When our conversation turns to the history of Rightster, Muirhead says, “When it got to 2010 we had the insight to build a software company that made a platform available in the cloud and some specialist services to do the whole turnkey solution for distribution and monetisation, as we think of it as a 360 proposition across any platform.” If those words were just words to you, let me see if I can break down what Muirhead is saying: Rightster is a software company that focuses on automating every part of the content distribution. Every part. They’re attempting to automate “everything you would imagine [that] is involved in optimising a YouTube channel: metadata optimisation, cross promotion, commenting, etc.” In the next few weeks, Rightster will roll out software that tracks the effectiveness of audience development, because, as Muirhead explains, “people talk about, ‘Oh we do great audience development,’ but nobody actually goes, ‘Oh this [particular strategy] led to a 2 percent improvement and this [other strategy] led to an 18 percent improvement.’” Currently Rightster still has a “large YouTube team doing [optimisation] manually,” so it would seem that people are not totally obsolete yet, but give the engineers at Rightster some time, and they’ll figure it out.

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In the three years it has been around, Rightster has grown from 20 to 200 people, nearly 100 of which are in product and engineering. As well, Rightster has offices in multiple cities throughout the world: London, Bangalore, Delhi, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, Milan, Berlin, New York, Madrid, Los Angeles, Singapore and Melbourne. “It’s been an incredible journey,” Muirhead says. And it looks like the journey is just beginning; in the next few months Rightster will move out of their Central London office into a new, larger office in South East London, where many other tech companies are already based.

Unlike many other MCNs, Rightster works not only on YouTube, but also on 3500 other sites. For London Fashion Week alone, at least 200 publishers syndicated the live stream. Muirhead states that this is all about going where the audience is already, rather than trying to aggregate them into one YouTube channel.

In the last six months Rightster has begun representing original, self-funded YouTube channels, and have found that 30-40 percent of their YouTube traffic now comes from these channels. In addition, the company has created Rightster Studios, which funds content built, first and foremost, for YouTube (they’ll be making some interesting announcements about Rightster Studios in the next few days, so make sure you’re checking NewMediaRockstars to be in the loop).

Rightster is also helping people create their own multi-channel networks, a “network in a box,” as Muirhead describes it. “We can be behind the scenes and help with ad-sales, cross development, audience development, software automation, content ID management,  distribution off YouTube, management content on their own site, etc. So they can just focus on the content.”

Perhaps, with YouTube allegedly not publishing to all of a channel’s subscribers, Rightster is smart to be making the decision to not focus on subscriptions. One thing we can be certain about is Rightster is something different. When asked about the future of Rightster, Tabitha Goldstaub states that it will be “very bright and very global,” and I think she’s absolutely correct.

About the author:

Ali Jardine is fabulously modest. He’d never tell you that, for example, he’s been making videos on YouTube since 2007 and nor would he tell you that he produced Stickaid, which raised over £20,000 for UNICEF back in 2011. You can follow him on Twitter and YouTube.

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