AOL Snatches Up Online Video Provider StudioNow for $36.5M

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AOL has purchased video production company StudioNow Inc for $36.5 million.

We wrote about StudioNow back in the Fall of 2008, when they had just signed a deal to develop videos for CitySearch.  This merger/purchase is newsworthy because of the technology that StudioNow had created–as well as for what it might mean for AOL’s ability to delve deeper into video.

StudioNow is a video production house that has automated the entire process.  Clients like City Search come in, knowing they need about a million videos created for their various directories across the U.S. (videos on City Search highlight the businesses listed and can include testimonials from happy customers), and StudioNow automates the entire thing.  They take the original order, plug it into their system, and the technology does the rest—finding creative talent in the city in question to script, film, and edit the video and submit it back to the client when complete.  It’s pretty nifty, actually.

Another thing that makes this purchase interesting is that it is the first AOL purchase where I’ve actually had lunch recently with the founder.

Several months back, in the summer of 2009, Adam Solesby and I had lunch in Nashville—where both StudioNow and myself are based.  He’d read some of my work here on, and just thought we could stand to get to know each other a little bit—there are precious few players in the online video world here in Music City, USA.

We met at a place called Gabby’s Burgers & Fries—which I point out only because it was the best burger I’ve ever had in my life—and just talked shop for a while.  I got to know him and what he does over at StudioNow, and he got to know me and what I do in my many roles and jobs.  It was a great time, and I assumed we’d be crossing paths again soon enough.

Little did I know that I’d be reading about their acquisition by AOL just a few short months later.  But I can’t say that I’m surprised.  The more Adam talked about what they had created at StudioNow, the more convinced I became that the service was poised for great growth.  While I was a bit skeptical at first about the automation of so many facets of video production, the end results are hard to argue with.  By the way, they also automate a great deal of the SEO work behind the videos they produce—including meta data and tags/categories.  Now, most SEO professionals are hardwired to have the hair on the back of their necks stand up when someone talks about automating SEO work… but again, the end results that I’ve seen have solid keyword usage and general SEO strategy.

So what does this mean for AOL?  I have no idea, really.  AOL is all over the place these days, and I’m not sure that they have a strategy for staying relevant beyond just buying a lot of successful start ups.  I guess they still have plenty of email to deliver.

But judging by the purchase of StudioNow, it seems clear they’d like to get in on the video production game.  They’re planning to roll the technology developed by the company into their product—which creates and manages content of all kinds, including photos and writing.

I wish I’d had a chance to get to know Solesby and StudioNow a bit better before they hit their payday, as I’m sure their story is an interesting one to tell.  However, congratulations to the entire team at StudioNow.  When a major company wants to buy yours for millions of dollars, that’s usually a sign that you’ve done something right.  I look forward to seeing what comes next for those folks.  Those of you in the market for a high-volume video production service might just want to keep your eye on where AOL is planning to go with Seed now that they’ve acquired StudioNow’s technology.


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