Former Hulu CTO launches 'Home Shopping Network for millennials'

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent
A new iOS app called Unboxed wants to be the QVC of mobile by offering hours of original programming focused on unboxing tech devices. Source: Packagd

Despite the success of e-commerce giants like Amazon (AMZN), there are few if any online sites serving up shopping as sheer entertainment the way QVC (QVCA) or HSN (HSNI) do on TV.

But a new iOS app called Unboxed aims to fill that void by offering hours of original, hosted shows that spotlight tech gadgets and videos pulled from YouTube. All of them feature a central theme: unboxing products. (Yes, really.)

According to Packagd CEO Eric Feng, who developed Unboxed, there’s a very good reason for that. Unboxing videos are a popular genre on YouTube with huge cult followings. One unboxing video of the popular Nintendo Switch has fetched nearly 2.9 million views since early March; another unboxing video of Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 7 Plus generated over 1.5 million views. But perhaps the award for “most-watched” unboxing video of a gadget goes to this adorable unboxing of a 6-volt Spider-Man toy car, with more than 212 million views.

“I’ve been working in video for over a decade and long believed that commerce can be inspired by video,” said Feng, who is also a general partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and previously served stints as chief technical officer at Hulu and Flipboard. 

“One thing we knew from the get-go: we didn’t want to try to change consumer habits,” Feng added. “We wanted to build a platform that mapped to what consumers were already doing. QVC and HSN have proven that shopping as entertainment works, and that’s what Unboxed offers to a younger generation of shoppers. It’s like the Home Shopping Network for millennials.”

Packgd CEO Erin Feng previously worked as chief technical officer at Hulu and Flipboard and also currently serves a general partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. Source: Packagd.

People consume 10 billion hours of product unboxing videos each month on YouTube, according to Feng. Google (GOOG, GOOGL) also reported in November 2014 that 62% of people who watch unboxing videos are researching a potential purchase. Translation: Not only is there a huge audience for Unboxed to potentially tap into, but that audience is serious about spending their hard-earned cash.

“With Unboxed, we think we can connect influencers to consumers in a more meaningful way through commerce,” Feng said. “We are also creating a home for content creators to make more money, better engage with their fans and build their brands.

People who download Unboxed will find up to six hours a day of original programming featured at the top of the app from unboxing hosts who have millions of social media followers, including Austin Evans, Dom Esposito, Chris Denker, and Frank Passalacqua.  

Unboxed host Austin Evans has over 2.2 million followers on YouTube. Source: Unboxed

Tapping on the video leads to an area where they can also ask the video host questions or skim listings of the products featured in the video, which are currently pulled from partner Best Buy (BBY). All payments are made via Apple Pay with a simple fingerprint scan.

Video hosts such as Evans, Esposito and Denker will receive a small fee for each unboxed item featured in their video that a user purchases. Feng, meanwhile, envisions Unboxed eventually making a profit through further retail partnerships at a later date. He also plans on bringing Unboxed to Android and the web later this year, as well launching a similar standalone app focused on beauty products later this year.

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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