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PROVO — After a prolonged legal battle with the giants of Hollywood and spending a better part of two years out of the public eye, Provo-based video filtering service VidAngel is relaunching under new ownership.
The relaunch was spearheaded by a new "Dirty Dog" advertisement campaign that features a witty but gruff talking dog showcasing VidAngel's services.
VidAngel is a filtering company that lets users remove objectionable or profane content from popular movies and TV shows streaming on popular platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and AppleTV+, among others.
In June of 2016, Disney, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 20th Century Fox Film Corporation and Lucasfilm filed a lawsuit against VidAngel, claiming the company blatantly violated the Copyright Act by circumventing "technological protection measures on DVDs and Blu-ray discs" to create unauthorized streaming copies of movies and TV shows.
After a tumultuous four-year battle, a $62.4 million judgment in a copyright lawsuit against VidAngel in 2020 was significantly reduced to $9.9 million in damages as part of a settlement.
"It's a question we get all the time, it's like, 'Hey, you guys are still here?'" said Bill Aho, VidAngel's CEO.
Indeed, they still are.
"People remember the lawsuits, they remember the litigation and they remember that VidAngel was fighting against long odds," Aho said.
Along with staying out of the news cycle, Aho noted that the company did in fact go through some "rocky times," where the future was tenuous.
Since the settlement agreement was signed in 2020, Aho purchased the company from Neal Harmon in March of 2021, securing the filtering assets and business with all of the former employees staying on with new ownership.
"This was a business now that was unencumbered by litigation. It was a business that we felt like had a loyal following and customer base and that we felt like had just been neglected a little bit," he said. "It actually worked out really well. We took on this business, we kept all of our employees and we started investing in it."
Those investments came in engineering, the product as a whole, customer support and spreading the word of VidAngel through marketing like the "Dirty Dog" campaign.
So far, Aho said these investments are paying dividends.
Within the first year under Aho's ownership, the company doubled its subscriber base and it's anticipating another big year this year.
He said it's fair to describe VidAngel's return from hibernation as a "relaunch."
All the studios had the opportunity to participate and most of them chose not to, so we feel pretty comfortable that everybody that has concerns or complaints has had a chance to air them and participate in litigation if they saw fit.
–Bill Aho, VidAngel CEO
"It's a relaunch in that it's the first really significant advertising that we've done since we split off the company," Aho said.
As for the "Dirty Dog" campaign, Aho said it's unique in the sense that Harmon Brothers — a Provo-based advertisement agency that Harmon co-founded — allowed VidAngel to be involved in the process.
"Most agencies don't do that and I've worked with a lot of major agencies in New York and on the West Coast over the years," Aho said. "It was a lot of fun seeing the sausage being made."
Still, the question remains: How will VidAngel continue to operate as a video filtering service without running into similar legal issues that it did six years ago?
Aho is confident that the legal issues that dragged VidAngel down in the past are just that — in the past.
"All the studios had the opportunity to participate and most of them chose not to, so we feel pretty comfortable that everybody that has concerns or complaints has had a chance to air them and participate in litigation if they saw fit," Aho said.
So far, he said the company hasn't heard any complaints since the litigation concluded. He even went as far as saying that ultimately, VidAngel hopes to partner with the Hollywood studios.
"I think that makes perfect sense for them," Aho said. "In the meantime, we'll continue to operate our business as we have. Consumers tell us it works pretty well."
He said VidAngel releases new content weekly, as it comes out from different streaming services.
"It's been fun," Aho said. "We look forward to continued growth."