Buried in the news that BuzzFeed raised $50 million in new funding on Monday is the fact that the 550-person company has reorganized itself. BuzzFeed now consists of separate business units for its Web content, its video content, its branded content, and its distributed content.
The most formidable of the group is BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, the new name (and with it, an expanded mission) of the company’s video operations. BuzzFeed is known for its highly shareable lists and native advertising experiments, but the company’s two-year-old, Los Angeles-based video operation has been quietly growing like a weed. In an interview with Fortune, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said he believes the video business could become as big or bigger than BuzzFeed.com. “Video is a huge, mega-trend, and the fact that it’s being viewed on mobile at such a high rate and being shared at a high rate aligns all these things together,” he said. “Digital, video, mobile and social can all be the exact same thing: someone sharing a video they love that they viewed on their mobile device.”
In the last two years, the company has produced between 1,800 and 1,900 short videos with a total of 1.7 billion YouTube views. About 27% of its videos have garnered more than 1 million views each. The video business has slightly more than 100 employees and recently unveiled a new 20,000 square-foot studio space in Los Angeles.
Now, with the establishment of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, the company will expand beyond its bite-sized, one- to three-minute videos to make serialized content and longer-form features, including documentaries. The company says it will collaborate with traditional Hollywood studios, though it declined to discuss how specifics of any business partnerships.
BuzzFeed Motion Pictures is run by Ze Frank, an early viral video star who joined BuzzFeed in 2012. One month ago, Jonathan Perelman, the general manager of video and vice president of agency strategy at BuzzFeed, moved to Los Angeles to ramp up the unit’s business operations, which includes a creative team making sponsored videos for brands.
We spoke with Peretti, Frank, and Perelman about BuzzFeed’s big bet. Below are excerpts from interviews with each, edited and condensed for clarity.