After a radical transformation, Blip gets ready to take on cable

Online video is ready for its FX moment, according to Blip Networks CEO Kelly Day. Just like Fox (S NWS) turned FX into a successful network for original programming on cable, Day is planning to turn Blip into a network of topical channels with strong brands that are ready to compete head-to-head with traditional cable channels.

To prepare for this, she’s been spearheading a radical transformation of the video site ever since she joined a year ago. “I came here because I have high aspirations for this company,” Day told me when I stopped by Blip’s offices in New York last week.

To understand how much Blip has changed, it’s worth looking back at its origins: Blip launched back in 2005 under the name as a kind of YouTube (s GOOG) for video bloggers and podcasters, which early on set the tone for a slightly different set of content. “We’ve never had viral videos, we don’t focus on music videos,” remembered Blip Senior Vice President of Content Steve Woolf when I talked to him about Blip’s transformation in March.

From 900,000 accounts to 4000 shows

Still, a lot of people uploaded all kinds of content — and some time last year, Blip made the strategic decision to get rid of most of them. Blip’s staff has been reviewing around 900,000 accounts over the last couple of months with the goal to identify high-quality serialized content. Woolf estimated that in the end, only about 4,000 shows will remain on the site. And Blip is also getting a lot more selective when it comes to new signups: “Blip was an open platform, now there is an application process,” explained Woolf.

Blip Networks CEO Kelly Day.

Blip Networks CEO Kelly Day.

Blip’s new focus on serialized, monetizable content will be on full display at the Newfronts in New York next week, where Day is going to unveil some additional details about her plans to turn the site into a new form of multichannel network. At the core of it is professional, serialized web content that can engage audiences through a variety of channels — be it on Blip or off. The company has taken some first steps in that direction over the last couple of months with the launch of its own studio in Los Angeles, which is headed by Woolf. It also forged a partnership with YouTube, producing some exclusive content for the former rival.

And now, it is looking to spin out new online channels around some of the topics that have been working well for niche channels on cable. Think cooking, golf, or any other cable properties with a highly specialized audience. “Those are some of the easiest to disrupt,” she said.

Her plan includes taking that kind of shows off of Blip and building dedicated websites with highly curated content around it, likely with a separate branding. Some of these sites could even have a live component, something that Blip hasn’t done much in the past. Day wants to launch these new sites and brands within the next year, possibly as early as this fall. “I believe in building verticals around interests,” she told me.

So what about YouTube?

Of course, Blip isn’t alone in its move towards more professional content. YouTube has famously invested hundreds of millions into advances for content creators, and has been pushing hard to establish channels as destinations on its site. “They’re doing a lot of good for the industry,” acknowledged Day during our interview. At the same time, some creators have found themselves falling short of YouTube’s expectations, with less than 40 percent of the site’s original programming slate getting re-funded.

Day argued that this is in part because of YouTube’s inability to surface that content to the right audiences. “I don’t think the algorithm works for everything,” she said. Some of these creators could benefit from being on separate, more curated destinations. Or to take the cable analogy: from producing for FX, not Fox.

That’s why she is considering to partner up with a “select hand full” of these channels, and eventually help them be successful off of YouTube. “It is a good opportunity for us to bring on some new partners,” she said.