t5m re-launches as a branded content studio, syndicator and video player

When Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher launched his Blahgirls project at Techcrunch 50 this year, one of the first things investor Ron Conway said on the judging panel was that the idea would tap into the emerging billion dollar market for branded content. Media plays like Blahgirls aren’t normally so well received in the tech community, but now UK startup t5m has today re-launched in order to tap into the same market. But it will do so by setting up a global network of bureaus to produce and syndicating short-form interactive 3-5 minute HD video, built around brands and distributed via its own custom-built video player.

Right now the portal site is mainly a showcase but next February it will re-launch with personalisation, social networking, shopping, competitions and new video contributors. It’s being built on a customised version of the open-source WordPress platform called WordPress Multi-User, developed with Automattic, the company behind the WordPress open source blogging platform. The site now features 300 hours of HD content, 100 in-depth profiles and over 20 events.

More videos like this on www.t5m.com

The move is a full-blown re-vamp for t5m which launched in December last year as a “socially-conscious online TV network” with investment from Lastminute.com co-founder Brent Hoberman, Reuters Greenhouse Fund founder John Taysom and Mexx clothes company founder Rattan Chadha. The founder and CEO Charlie Muirhead, a serial UK entrepreneur behind Orchestream, acquired by MetaSolv in 2003.

T5M initially focused on offering charities such as Nelson Mandela’s 46664 their own dedicated t5m video channel. However, that strategy has clearly been switched for celebs and start-studded events. t5m will now even book the ‘talent’ and presenters for these videos.

T5M launched first in 2007 with Microsoft’s Silverlight Flash competitor but after poor results – few people actually have Silverlight installed – they now offer that alongside the ubiquitous Flash format. Encoding is done in H264 and outputed to Flash and Silverlight. The video player is sharable and will distribute it in HD format, as well as on other platforms like YouTube. In February the video player will be interactive.

Most of the video is of famous personalities, and backstage interviews at celeb-studded events in the UK like the Brits, but t5m plans to launch a global network of bureaus to produce the content. They’ll also create custom hosted video sites for partners and clients.

So far clients have included Samsung Electronics Europe among others. So in other words funding will be from client revenues, especially events. In fact the company says it is nearly profitable already, although a funding round may be in the offing as the there is IP in the platform and player.

T5M will probably benefit from the uptick of budgets towards online as brands with advertising budgets increasingly find that consumers are flipping through their TV ads because of the proliferation of PVRs. Web video therefore has three main advantages for brand advertisers: viewers can’t skip the ads, the brand appears either side of the video and, important in Europe, most online video remains unregulated by broadcast watchdogs.

It’s an interesting move. The tradional TV world contains production companies which rarely own rights or syndicate. T5M will combine both models.