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Shahrzad Rafati's BroadbandTV Turns Piracy into Profit

Shahrzad Rafati has it all: brains, beauty, and a killer business model that serves the emerging market of Internet entertainment
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Where others saw unavoidable profit loss, Shahrzad Rafati saw a business opportunity. The prevalence of Internet piracy has caused huge profit losses for video content companies, sparked controversial law measures like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and has served as the perfect environment for Rafati to release her business: BroadbandTV.

 In 2005 Rafati started BroadbandTV, which connects video content producers with unauthorized clips of their content, rebrands them, and then monetizes the content. Rafati was still in college, with a year left to finish her degree in computer sciences at the University of British Columbia when she created this business model that links content owners, network operators and advertisers in financially advantageous ways.

In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Rafati explained thatshe saw the issue of piracy differently, as more of an opportunity for content producers to capitalize on the enthusiasm and work of fans.

 “…The guys that are uploading [pirated clips] are not really thinking of themselves as pirates. These are fans that… are uploading the videos …sharing them with their friends and [are] very enthusiastic…[My thought was], how can we come up with a solution to the problem that the content partners are facing where we give them control?”

Rafati then developed specialized computer programs, similar to Google’s search algorithms, to find pirated copyrighted video content from major video content producers like the National Basketball Association (NBA), which removes objectionable material,rebrands the pirated content and then attaches advertising to it. Through BroadbandTV, a pirated video clip posted on YouTube is rebranded into a revenue-generating league asset.

Initially it was difficult to convince companies of the feasibility and advantages of using BroadbandTV.

 “For us, when we were approaching the content partners...it was months and months of negotiation…but, at the end of the day, we provided them with stats, data, and user activity associated with their video assets,” explained Rafati to the Vancouver Sun.

“They had two options. Either they had no control or they [could] have control-- and there was a business model behind it. There are real revenues associated with user activity around the user uploaded content. Because there was no risk on their end and we were doing all the work [while] bringing them a revenue stream, we were able to get them on board.”

BroadbandTV’s business has grown hugely over the past four years, attracting big name partners like YouTube, Warner Brothers, Sony and the aforementioned NBA, garnering billions of impressions and millions of ad dollars.

Today, the company has a consumer brand called VISO that operates on YouTube and offers channels with video games, sports, music, television, and movie trailer content. Its newest channel is called VISO Gives, which both showcases videos about non-profits and enables the non-profits to make money from advertising on the videos.

Shahrzad Rafati has been named #37 by Fast Company on their 100 Most Creative People in Business 2011 and BroadbandTV was ranked second in Marketing Magazine’s list of ‘Canada’s Digital Media Companies To Watch’.

The latest move for Rafati is talking with potential investors about a first round of Series A venture capital funding

“We’ve been fortunate. The business is cash-flow positive. We have a proven model. As a result of that, we want to grow rapidly and we think it’s best to go out there and raise some money and truly scale the business,” explains Rafati.

With Rafati at the helm, BroadbandTV is set to become a leader in the Internet entertainment industry.

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