NBTV, a direct-to-consumer video commerce and personalization platform raised $10 million in a Series A with plans to meet growth in the alcohol e-commerce industry via its new Spirits Network channel.
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Nick Buzzell, chairman and CEO of NBTV and Spirits Network, founded the New York-based company in 2008, as a studio to produce branded entertainment for large enterprises.
In 2018, he created a new division called NBTV Channels and spun it out to separate its content business from its technology and distribution side, Buzzell told Crunchbase News.
NBTV also raised venture capital for the new division, bringing in a total of $15 million, including the Series A, Buzzell added. Backers in the deal include Branded Strategic Hospitality, as well as a group of angel investors, family offices and high-net-worth individuals including Spirits Network President David Nichols along with Mark Bezos and John Esposito.
Spirits Network, a shoppable video platform, is the first channel launched using NBTV’s new technology, and Buzzell expects to create additional channels in sports and wellness.
“We were doing shoppable video commerce prior to COVID, but saw the opportunity and writing on the wall in terms of people wanting instant gratification,” he said. “One key to our approach is to be a specialist instead of a generalist.”
He likens Spirits Network to a “Netflix meets QVC” experience. Shoppers become registered users and get free access to the channel through its website, mobile app or Apple TV. It is one of the first shoppable television channels where shoppers can purchase directly from the screen. The channel is also adding features, such as joining the Bottle of the Month Club for $149 a month to receive new products and tasting experiences.
Since launching the channel in 2018, the company saw more than 500 percent growth in its customer base, with 35 percent purchasing on a regular basis, and millions of views, according to Buzzell. In addition, cart sizes are increasing from $100 to $200.
With the new funding, he expects to add 20 new content series, as well as expand into the U.K. and Europe later this year. The company already operates in cities including New York, Boston and Los Angeles, offering free delivery, and in some cases same-day delivery. It is also working with the spirit brands to integrate their stories into the channel’s content.
“We have an exciting path forward,” Buzzell said. “We see NBTV channels as a new category in direct-to-consumer advertising and monetization as it relates to sales. We did not create shoppable video, we just made it better. It could be the new model for non-interruptive advertising. It’s one part technology and one part media to engage and build an emotional connection.”
Meanwhile, experts say the alcohol e-commerce industry is still gaining traction: The share of alcohol sales made online was just 1 percent in 2019, compared to groceries at 3.4 percent and 38 percent of apparel sales during the same time.
International Wine & Spirit Research expects the total value of alcohol e-commerce across 10 global markets, including the U.S., to exceed $40 billion by 2024. That’s after the figure reached about $5.6 billion in 2020, up from around $3 billion in 2019.
A capital injection into NBTV helps turn around a lackluster year of investment. Although COVID-19 fueled a rise in e-commerce alcohol sales, venture capital investment dollars and deals into the space were down across the board between 2019 and 2020, according to Crunchbase data.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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