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Will Keenan Jumps from Endemol to Live-Video Startup Streamup (Exclusive)

Former head of Endemol Beyond USA eyes slate of original live Internet programming

Will Keenan
Courtesy of Will Keenan

Will Keenan, who most recently headed up Endemol Shine’s U.S. digital programming arm, has been named president and chief content officer of Streamup, a startup whose open live-streaming platform has garnered nearly 20 million monthly users in less than a year.

At Streamup, based in Santa Monica, Calif., Keenan is angling to produce original live programming for the Internet — creating what he says will be the first “live MCN.” Keenan spent two years building Endemol Beyond USA, before departing last month, and before that was at Maker Studios as VP of vertical development and programming.

To Keenan, live is the next big frontier for Internet video, following the growth of YouTube-oriented MCNs and other over-the-top services. “Real-time live-streaming is not only the new reality TV, it’s truly the new TV,” he said.

Streamup describes itself as a non-ad-supported video-streaming community that lets users stream video together at the same moment. It was founded by CEO Kyle Michelson, who officially formed Streamup last year after studying political science at USC and the London School of Economics.

It’s one of several live-streaming platforms and services that have mushroomed in recent years, with players including YouTube, Amazon’s Twitch, Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat. But whereas those are focused on serving as platforms, Streamup wants to also create original live TV-style shows and develop talent, Keenan said.

“We’re honored and excited to have Will Keenan leading our team,” Michelson said in a statement. “At Endemol Beyond he redefined what it meant to be a multichannel network, and at Streamup he’ll redefine what it means to live stream. It’s time to tear down the fourth wall and usher in a new era of interactivity.”

Keenan said he considered multiple job opportunities after leaving Endemol Beyond USA, before deciding to join Streamup, in which he has received an equity stake. Separately, he has also made a personal investment in Zealot Networks, headed by former Maker CEO Danny Zappin.

Streamup’s service is still in a beta phase, with the company currently planning an official launch in January 2016. Keenan noted that Streamup has attracted a large and active user base even without a mobile component; the company expects to introduce Apple iOS and Google Android apps in the coming months, and extend to other connected-video devices such as Apple TV and Roku.

“Streamup, like YouTube, Vine, Snapchat and other platforms before it, has already began creating its own stars and influencers,” Keenan said. During his time at Endemol, he signed pacts with talent for original digital entertainment include YouTube beauty star Michelle Phan, Pitbull, Brittany Furlan and Courtney Love.

Live programming formats Streamup is looking at include comedy performances, news, e-sports, music, talk shows and reality competitions, Keenan said.

So how will Streamup make money? It wants to avoid traditional forms of advertising, in favor of other models such as a “tip jar” for viewers to donate to individual broadcasters. Streamup also is exploring branded-content opportunities for live programming, as well as pay-per-view events, Keenan said. The startup expects to introduce revenue-sharing terms for creators, as YouTube does.

Keenan met Michelson in the fall of 2014. They worked together on a project that would have live-streamed all the activity of the Endemol Beyond USA offices during work hours, but that idea never came to fruition.

Streamup has raised $1.7 million from investors including Mucker Capital, BAM Ventures, SocialStarts and angel investors. The company currently has about a dozen employees, including COO Nick Overton, who previously worked at Justin.tv and Twitch.