AMC Networks and Plus Capital led a $4 million investment round in DanceOn, a YouTube multichannel network centered on dance entertainment that is looking to expand its reach beyond the Google-owned video site.
Other investors in the L.A.-based company include Nigel Lythgoe, exec producer of “So You Think You Can Dance”; Machinima CEO Allen DeBevoise and EVP Aaron DeBevoise; Guy Oseary, Madonna’s manager; Roku chief marketing officer Matthew Anderson; Luminari Capital managing partner Daniel Leff; MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan; former News Corp. digital exec Jon Miller; Zefr co-founder Rich Raddon; startup accelerator LaunchPad LA; and Klass Capital Fund. In addition, Lythgoe has joined the startup’s board.
AMC’s stake in DanceOn continues the trend of traditional media players putting more skin into the Internet video game. DreamWorks Animation acquired YouTube MCN AwesomenessTV earlier this year, while Comcast and WPP invested in Fullscreen. Backers of Maker Studios, the YouTube MCN that acquired Blip, include Time Warner Inc. and French media conglom Canal +.
With the funding, DanceOn CEO Amanda Taylor expects to grow the company from 15 employees to 25 over the next 12 months to expand distribution to multiple platforms beyond YouTube.
“YouTube is a really important part of what we do, and we’ll always be fostering a community and audience on YouTube,” she said. But, she added, “we’re really looking at growing beyond this definition of being a multichannel network… To the extent we are generating premium content, we want to be on all devices” like Roku set-tops and Xbox consoles.
DanceOn was among the 100 channels in YouTube’s original channels funding initiative in 2011. YouTube contributed additional funding to DanceOn in early 2013; however, Taylor said, Google is a partner not an equity investor.
The primary DanceOn channel on YouTube has 263,000 subscribers and 187.3 million views to date. The company claims that across all its properties (and through partners) it has about 7 million YouTube subscribers and 1.2 billion views to date, but it isn’t clear at how it arrives at those figures.
The MCN has cut deals with marketing partners including Unilever, Ubisoft and Diageo for content partnerships. In addition, DanceOn has a deal with Shine America to jointly develop projects.
According to Taylor, DanceOn’s strategy of expanding to multiple platforms is not specifically about YouTube’s revenue-sharing terms with content partners. Under its standard deal, YouTube gives content owners 55% of ad revenue sold against their videos.
DanceOn series include “Dance Showdown,” which pairs YouTube stars with professional dancers to compete for cash prizes, and “The Edge,” which profiles musical artists and dancers who perform with them including Madonna, David Guetta and wil.i.am. Taylor said the network has broad appeal, spanning professional dancers to viral wedding dances, that is unlike other music-oriented digital outlets like Vevo.
“There is no channel on television like it,” she said.
Taylor, who previously managed choreographers and dancers in New York City, founded DanceOn in her Gotham apartment in 2010. She moved the company to L.A. in January 2012 to offices at Sunset and Vine.