BroadBandTV CEO Shahrzad Rafati Thinks YouTube is a ‘Growing, Healthy Space’ [INTERVIEW]

I think Shahrzad Rafati gets my vote for smartest person on the planet. Born in Tehran, Iran (man, I love locations that rhyme), Rafati spent her later teenage years in Vancouver, Canada and got a taste of two very different cultures. It might be why she’s so well-rounded. The founder and CEO of BroadbandTV is basically a living checklist of smooth moves and calculated risks done right. She bridged the gap between sports entities like the NBA and their upload-loving media fans, she partnered her company up with Europe’s largest investment group, has done business with Google and she was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. She also cofounded Chopra Yoga with Deepak Chopra and studied French at the Sorbonne (yes, I can read Wikipedia). Also, did we mention she heads up the fourth largest channel on YouTube?


But that’s not why she gets my vote for smartest person on the planet. No, Rafati gets my vote because not only has she made battling global unemployment a priority, but she was willing to take the time to actually remember the little people she’s intent on helping and do an interview with NMR. Okay, so maybe I don’t have the highest standards for brilliant people, but hold that against me, not Rafati. I’m sure much smarter people than me have had the same opinion.

Since she was sweet enough to talk with me (over the computer, of course … she’s smart enough not to hang out with Jeff “Grabby Hands” Klima in any other medium). I figured the least NMR could do was give you a proper introduction. So, internet at large, you know the work of BroadbandTV, now meet the innovator behind the curtain.

Can you give some insight into exactly what the CEO of a major MCN does on a daily basis? How active are you in talent discovery and acquisitions? Or are you too busy dealing with the other, broader aspects of the company?

Shahrzad Rafati: It’s important to me that I remain very involved in all aspects of the business. Not only do I love what we do as a company and genuinely enjoy working with my entire team, but the space is evolving so quickly that each day opens new opportunities and challenges; every day is a new adventure.

We have a whole team dedicated to discovering new talent and bringing it into the network. It’s exciting to see the volume of talent growing at the rate that it has been and we have some great channels across our network.

In terms of my day-to-day routine, no two days are the same. They generally consist of an early start, receiving an update on what is happening in the industry and connecting with the department heads to check in and move forward with activity. It’s a very fast-paced environment; it can require pivoting to get to the end result and it’s a lot of fun. We constantly review our progress against the overall vision and work hard on the business model.

BroadbandTV scored majorly with a huge funding round in June. What are some of the developments to come as a result of that? Does everyone at BBTV now drive Ferraris?

No Ferraris just yet! Yes – we announced an ongoing strategic partnership with RTL Group in June this year and it was a great step for us. RTL Group is Europe’s largest entertainment broadcaster and the funds have helped us to focus on three areas: globalisation, infrastructure and technology. 2014 is set to be a big year for BroadbandTV following the developments and growth we’ve experienced this year.

You recently won Emerging Entrepreneur at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® Awards — how did that stack up against, say, being listed as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2011?

It’s all about the team. These awards are for the whole business; we’ve worked hard to get where we are and we celebrate all of our successes together.

Yes, one of the most memorable awards was Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business in 2011. It was a very special award and it happened early on in our journey. It received a lot of attention and created a lot of buzz; it also meant a lot to me on a personal level.


BBTV utilizes a proprietary platform called VISO Catalyst — what is that and how does it help YouTubers succeed?

We announced VISO Catalyst in September this year and it was developed by our expert technology team. It’s available to all of our partners and ultimately helps them become more successful online. The overall goal with VISO Catalyst is to allow content creators to focus on creating great content and then utilizing our platform to increase viewership and engagement. It includes constantly evolving keyword and thumbnail optimization, smart engagement and protection, video deployment and customization tools to name a few. It’s very much a living and breathing product, so we’ll be sure to keep you updated.

How much of BBTV’s success is attributable to being in the right place at the right time with YouTube beginning operations around the same time?

Great question, and I definitely think that we have benefitted from being a long-standing, established player in the market. We’ve seen it become increasingly competitive which has been great from an innovation standpoint; it’s also an indicator that it’s a growing, healthy space.

I think our deep expertise, technology and the fact that we have been able to sustain growth while leveraging our technology and solid footing is a major advantage for us and ultimately our partners.

What does BBTV have upcoming for us in 2014?

We’re really looking forward to 2014 – expect growth, more innovative technology and more great services.


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