Most startups beg for money but having a billionaire backer has a way of twisting things like Alice’s rabbit hole. That’s the case with Internet TV site Babelgum. Monday, along with introducing a new beta release of their peer to peer software, the company announced that they were setting up a fund to invest in new original content.
A total of €10 million has been budgeted. The money will commission documentaries and shorts up to fifteen minutes in length. They will air exclusively on Babelgum’s Internet network.
“We’re going down the road of transforming into a digital media studio,” CEO Andrea Giannoti said.
The transformation may pit them against Hollywood rivals exclusively focused on content creation (as opposed to content creation and distribution). The list of rivals includes Deca, Vuguru, Warner Brothers and Disney’s newly formed Stage 9 Media group.
Adding to that theme, Babelgum has also been sponsoring an Internet video film festival. Over 1000 films from more than 86 countries have been aired on their service as of March 5th.
Viewers are being asked to vote on the films. Their votes, mixed with a selection from a Babelgum appointed jury will narrow the pool to a short list. A final panel chaired by award winning filmmaker Spike Lee will select the winner.
The champion will be announced at the famed film festival in Cannes. And to add fan marketing twist, Babelgum will also fly the writers of the seven best reviews to the festival as well. (The Film Festival was first announced in September).
Babelgum was founded by Silvio Scaglia, the Italian telecom entrepreneur behind Fastweb and Omnitel (now Vodaphone Italy). In January 2007, he invested about €10 million to start the venture. According to a report in the UK’s Times from February 2007, he was also earmarking up to €350 million more of his own money to make the platform a success. That includes a pledge of €220 million from the sale of a 6.3 per cent stake in Fastweb.
The first Beta release of the downloaded IPTV software was released in March 2007. The company currently has about 120 employees. The company changed CTO’s in November.
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