By Georgina Prodhan
LONDON (Reuters) - Online video search and advertising company Blinkx launched its first web channels aimed at special interest groups on Wednesday, a move that should allow it to sell premium-rate ads by targeting niche audiences at scale.
The channels, the first fruits of Blinkx's $30 million acquisition of online ad network Burst Media in April, will connect up to 16 million users with common interests visiting different British sites through chatrooms and links.
Blinkx, the world's biggest video search engine, has a growing advertising business that matches relevant video ads to online content and users. It bought Burst Media to increase its advertising expertise and reach.
Founder and chief executive Suranga Chandratillake said Burst Media's relationships with thousands of independent online publishers, would allow advertisers to reach highly valuable, loyal audiences.
"These independent publishers are real influencers. They are relatively small on a one-off basis, not like the BBC or ESPN ... but particularly resonant for particular audiences," he said. "They have a two-way relationship with their audience."
According to web analysis firm comScore, about 86 percent of time spent on the internet is spent on sites outside the top 250 most popular sites.
The first four channels -- Giant Realm, MumIQ, Ignition, and Ella -- will target male video-gamers, women with children at home, car enthusiasts and young women interested in fashion respectively.
They will allow users to connect across similar websites through links, chatrooms and content sharing -- and will allow marketers to take part, for example by integrating a video game publisher's tweets into a conversation about a particular game.
Italian carmaker Fiat has already been working on a campaign for the Ignition channel.
Jessica McGranahan, Burst Media's head of publisher strategy and development, said more than 80 percent of visitors to Burst's network of websites watched preroll video ads to completion -- twice the industry standard.
"The reason why the independent web is so powerful is that the audience is loyal. The publishers that we work with, they know their audiences," she said.
Burst Media reaches more than a third of British web users through its network of thousands of sites.
Blinkx, which went public in 2007, turned profitable in its last financial year and almost doubled revenues to $66 million.
Its shares were up 1.2 percent at 1155 GMT.
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Dan Lalor)