Two of the biggest tech companies, Google and Facebook, have been competing as the internet’s biggest destinations for video. And yet, a small startup is betting it has a shot of nabbing their views by narrowing in on one of YouTube’s most popular styles.
Eight TV is an app focused on product reviews — by anyone and for anyone (anyone who carries a smartphone and probably likes Snapchat, that is). Shows can be created in minutes, often shot with selfie cameras. All videos are linked to a webpage to buy the item. The app pulls from the more than 100 million products in Amazon’s database.
For the creators of Eight TV, the hope is that anyone can be a star, and consumers can access authentic and personable reviews. Unlike on YouTube where creators use elaborate setups and tech to record and to edit review videos, Eight TV users simply use their smartphones.
“We’re focused on regular people where they can pick up the phone and say what they think,” said Leon Crutchley, cofounder of Eight TV. “We live in this world where every day there’s a new direct-to-consumer makeup or mattress brand. A lot of teenagers are asking what matters.”
Some of these teenagers may get makeup advice from Kylie Jenner or YouTuber Bethany Mota. Eight TV would hope they listen to “Sophia Makeups”:
Eight TV is vying to create a new class of creators and new form of shopping that also acts as entertainment, all optimized for smartphones. Of course, building a new social app isn’t easy in a world where Facebook and Google dominate. Snapchat’s user growth has stagnated as Instagram copycats many of its features. Musical.ly recently got acquired by a tech company in China as it tries to compete among the social giants. While Eight TV may focus on vertical and mobile, Google is also doing more with that format with celebrities in search and with YouTube Reels.
So far, Eight TV has 50,000 monthly active users, the majority of whom are teenage girls. That demographic dominated the early years of Snapchat so its no surprise that Lightspeed Ventures, one of the first investors in Snapchat, decided to invest in Eight TV during Apple’s Shark Tank knock-off Planet of the Apps. Both Snapchat and Eight TV are focused on vertical video and mobile, as well.
“At Lightspeed, we like to invest in an inherent consumer behavior with a technology layer over it. The insight here…the analog version is watching QVC and HSN. And the mobile-first version for shopping similar items is Eight TV,” Nicole Quinn, investor at Lightspeed, wrote on Medium.
“Snapchat … got people comfortable with the front-facing camera.”
Eight TV is also a part of Snap Accelerate, an exclusive group of companies that have access to some free ads and other integrations. An employee at Snap reached out to Eight TV after one product reviewer started sharing her videos to Snapchat and was referring hundreds of people a day to the app.
“What Snapchat has done is got people comfortable with the front-facing camera. That’s what surprised us most with starting this platform, that people didn’t want to use the back-facing camera to point at the product,” Crutchley said.
The app is also taking a page from another buzzing startup, HQ. This week, Eight TV formally launched a live show called “The Daily Drop” that gifts users with free or discounted products every day at 8 p.m. ET. A host is available live for questions and responds with video replies that are viewable by anyone. It’s similar to HQ drawing people into its app twice a weekday for live trivia with a cash prize.
“We’ve been watching those guys since day one. Their show is really cool, and I think a really powerful thing about it is that every single day there’s something to look forward to,” Crutchley said.
But a concern for HQ and for Eight TV is: How long will the excitement last?
HQ has been promoting more hosts and is releasing an Android app later this year. Eight TV’s next steps include launching an Android app along with making all of their videos available on the web and adding personalization in the app. For example, not every Eight TV user may like makeup and therefore the app should probably not show those users makeup videos first.
Asked if he had anything else to share, Crutchley described his team’s headquarters. Eight TV is based in San Mateo, California, apparently right next to YouTube’s first office.
“One of the first ever videos on YouTube was the founders sitting there in this pizza restaurant,” Crutchley said, which he said his team has visited too. What remains to seen is where they’ll go next.