MySpace Branded Video Channels

Earlier today, MySpace announced it would be launching branded video channels that will feature news and lifestyle video syndicated from partners including the New York Times and National Geographic.

The announcement was timed to make a statement.  This is the week when the major television networks begin the sales push for advertising for their fall show lineup. By announcing today, MySpace is boldly saying “Net Video is here to stay, and it’s going after TV.”

Among the content to be offered will be shorts from National Geographic shows like Explorer, movie reviews, content from News Corp’s IGN Entertainment channel, as well features on young celebrities, animation, and a channel from the popular web property The Daily Reel – a selection of short video clips from around the web.

Some large portion of the content will be available through a number of other outlets including traditional and Internet TV (National Geographic has been actively licensing its content including most recently to IPTV company, Joost). 

Video Games and Cancer Research?

Five or six years ago, one of the hot topics in academic and enterprise computing technology was something called Grid Computing. The concept, which had been in development for years in the academic and research community, was (explained in an over-simplified way) to have the resources of many computers and networks available in a similar fashion to electricity, or water – they’d be distributed, widely available; and available in varying quantities as needed.  The idea was assembling and selling computing power and resources (storage etc.) on demand.

If NASA needed to build a complicated weather model to plan for Space Shuttle launches, or if Pfizer needed to simulate thousands of chemical reactions in the search for a cancer drug, or if a hedge fund wanted to build a complex mathematical model of some esoteric market to manage risk– they’d all be able to buy the resources on a Grid, rather than having to buy and network tens, or hundreds of computers.   By design, computational Grids could allow scientists and companies to process incredibly large amounts of data, or run extremely complex calculations, more quickly and without the expense of a Super Computer. 

At the time, doing consulting work, I was fortunate enough to work a bit with some of the founding developers of Grid technology, and others who were working on Grid projects at the National Center for Supercomputing. I got to speak with them about commercial application of their work.  I learned a lot from them but I’m virtually certain none of them would have foreseen what’s happened in the past year with the Stanford Folding@home project – specifically, its expansion of Grid technologies to video game platforms.

The project (which is sometimes referred to as FAH or F@H) is a grid based project from Stanford designed to build simulations of protein folding, a biologic process that, when gone wrong, is theorized to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers and other maladies.  FAH has been active since 2000 and as of March 30th, 49 research papers have been published using the projects work.

What’s remarkable is that a good part of the FAH computational power comes from Video games and not idle desktop computers. Click to Read More

Apple: Week in Review

Last week was relatively busy with news about Apple and its products. Here’s a quick consolidated look at what came out of the shareholder meeting and what else is brewing from Apple-land in Cupertino:

Beatles are coming to iTunes

Not officially yet, but soon.  The rumors have been swirling since Steve Jobs played the Beatles song Lovely Rita during the announcement for the iPhone in January (not to mention Apple resolving its issues with Apple Corps and EMI).  But this week, Paul McCartney confirmed that a deal is imminent.  He said the Beatles library would be available soon in an interview with Billboard magazine.  He characterized the deal as “virtually settled.”   The report also confirmed McCartney’s next solo album “Memory Almost Full” will be available for download.  The press reports would lead me to expect the Beatles music will be available within the month but I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple waited to announce a deal until it rolls out the iPhone in mid June.  That kind of two-pronged high-profile announcement fits well with the company (and its CEO’s) showmanship style.

Two Sided Device Possibly in the Works

apple patent News of a January patent filing specifying a hand–held device with a smaller touch sensitive screen on one side and a larger touch/pressure-sensitive input screen on the back, flooded the web.  The basic concept of the patent was a device with user controls on one side and user-displays on the other. The most likely application is to allow the use of a full virtual keyboard on future devices (something that’s long been wished for, but that would be difficult to use even as on overlay on a full screen device) Speculation abounded as to whether this might be for a next-generation iPod (Nano or Full Size), or even a second generation iPod, or a new device altogether.   As is sometimes the case with patents, what has been filed may be defensive and never implemented – accordingly, speculating on what device this is for may be futile. The one sure conclusion is that Apple remains committed to improving and advancing user-interface technologies (and defending their IP in the space). Click to Read More

CBS News Acquiring Video Blog Wallstrip

New York celebrity, gossip and news blog Jossip was reporting today that CBS News (CBS Corporation) was acquiring Jossip’s fellow New York blog Wallstrip for approximately $5m in cash with a formal announcement likely early this week.

I try to stay away from reporting on rumors but sources and information regarding this deal are credible enough to suggest it is highly likely the rumors are dancing around truth – though the price may be exaggerated.

Wallstrip is a video blog characterized as one part Saturday Night Live and one part CNBC.   It’s comedic, off-beat approach targets Generation Y and the so-called "YouTube Generation" with 3 minute episodes covering stock market news or corporate with a less than traditional tone.

Wallstrips’s audience is growing but it is not yet substantial and its content is considered inconsistent. It’s most popular episode was a show spoofing CNBC’s Jim Cramer. That episode generated 30k viewers in January. According to a Business Week article Wallstrip did reach 10k viewers in its first three months.  

While Wallstrip did receive 500k in Angel investment, from a technology standpoint there is little to no innovation worthy of acquisition – the site is built using Revver (a YouTube competitor) for its video technology and the open-source Wordpress platform is the foundation of  its website. Wallstrip’s website at this time is not directly ad-supported leading to reports that the company has revenue of $0. Jossip got that part wrong. Revver, the platform Wallstrip is built on (and distributed through) shares revenue from ads incorporated into the video 50/50 with the content creator. Revver’s revenue sharing system is well documented in their sites Frequently Asked Questions section. Still, Wallstrip’s revenue is likely small.

The rumor being reported is that CBS wants the services of Wallstrip’s host, 29 year old actress Lindsay Campbell for its own online, and possibly TV, news services.   (Lindsay’s bio and background can be found here on her personal site. She is originally from Northern California, has a degree from Stanford, and has appeared a number of New York based TV shows including Law and Order and the Sopranos.)

It’s not unrealistic that Lindsay’s caught the eye of folks at CBS. She extremely attractive and manages to comes across as more than just a pretty lady. She is well educated, credible and articulate, balanced with a style that feels hip, casual and light-hearted enough to appeal to younger audiences in Gen X and Gen Y. It’s certainly true that CBS is actively developing its online presence, including last weeks investment in Joost.  Lindsay may fit into that, and based on the rumor, would only sign a contract if Wallstrip was acquired.   

It’s unclear what underlies a price tag of $5m, or if that information is accurate.  Even as a relatively low dollar number, it seems exorbitantly rich for a start-up of Wallstrip’s stage based on available information, and likewise, however talented Ms Campbell may be, and however creative a method of recruiting/hiring personnel, $5m is an exorbitantly high cost for corporate headhunting.

Joost: beta invites available here

Joost has been in the news a good amount lately. I’ve spoken on their activities, including a detailed look at their financing here.

For all the news, and all those curious to try Joost, the big roadblock has been the invitation-only nature of their current beta test. That’s still there but I can help.

Originally, invitations were allocated and limited by quota. Those who got them could only invite a few more people. Now, the restrictions are off. There’s no limit to the number of invites that can be forwarded on. That means, if you’re itching to try Joost and you need an invite, Metue can help. Send an email to or use my Contact Page. Be sure to put Joost in the title. I’ll forward anyone interested an invite to try their service. There is no email-farming, data-collection here, no strings — just a request that you come back and read the articles here on Metue again.

There are links for Digg, Technorati, and other bookmarking agents on Metue. Feel free to use them, bookmark Metue with your browser, or come back. Also, feel free to send along your thoughts on Joost. I have no relationship with the company and am curious to see how people will receive their new offering.

Joost Closes Substantial Series A Financing

It’s been an up and down week for the year old IPTV startup Joost but it’s ending on a high note; a very high note.

h-bd-aAfter several big announcements were made about content and advertising partnerships, the web was abuzz at the beginning of the month that the supposed broadcast-quality, free, peer-to-peer,  net-television service was officially going live (from beta).   Those announcements were slightly misleading (as access was dependent on invitation) but there was a spike in traffic, and interest.    Shortly thereafter, the Joost blog reported that the company’s central servers, which are located in Luxembourg, were having problems handling the demand and load. 

While Joost may be struggling to get it’s systems tuned to scale with demand, Joost released news that will likely leave the week, and the month, on a positive note no matter what happens next.  Earlier Thursday, the company announced the closing of a substantial Series A financing round.  In total, $45m was raised.

The venture round was led by Sequoia Capital and the European firm, Index Ventures (which also invested in the Joost founder’s prior company, Skype).

Though, as is the norm for private/venture transactions, little information was announced regarding valuation, it is clear  that the pre-money valuation accepted by the investors was substantial. The $45m dollar investment was characterized as buying a minority stake in the company which translates to a pre-money valuation of greater than $45m – though it’s not clear how much money was invested previously by the founders (who were flush with cash from the sale of Skype to eBay).  $45m pre-money is still  a staggering number for a year old company yet to have revenue or roll out its product in a wide release.   

Perspective on just how big a transaction this is comes with a comparison to investment in Joost’s competitor Veoh Networks.  In April 2006, Veoh a rival P2P IPTV company closed its Series B round. That transaction raised $12.5m from venture investors Shelter Capital and Spark Capital as well as Time Warner and other corporate partners. That round also resulted in two board seats going to industry heavyweights Michael Eisner (former CEO of Disney) and  Art Bilger (the former vice-chairman of Akamai and current managing partner at Shelter.).

The Joost deal is nearly 4 times the size of the Veoh investment – and it’s an A–round financing, not a Series B.   In what should be the understatement of the month,  Joost co-founder Janus Friis said “This funding represents a tremendous vote of confidence in Joost’s platform.”  Sequoia, which recently saw a tremendous return on its investment in YouTube, and hasn’t been scared to take large gambles in its transactions,  is clearly betting big on Joost.

In an indication that, like Skype, Joost’s has global plans from the start, Click to Read More

Viacom Q1 Earnings: Estimates Beaten but Profits Down

Entertainment conglomerate Viacom (NYSE: VIA), today reported Q1 numbers that beat analyst estimates but overall profit was reported down 36% due to restructuring costs ($56m at MTV) and increased expenses.

Wall Street consensus estimates were for profit of 31c a share, less the restructuring charges Viacom reported profits of 34c

viacom dreamworks paramount cmt spiketv comedy-central logosFirst quarter revenue was up 16% over the same period last year to $2.75b. Consensus estimates were for revenue of $2.55b. Ad sales were up globally by 10%. Operating income was down 3%. Net income was reported at $202.9m, down from $317.2m.

For the Cable Networks (MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, BET and Comedy Central, Spike, CMT etc), executives downplayed TV ratings and suggested their focus is on building Internet presence and online affiliate advertising. They noted Nickelodeon’s online project Nicktropolis had 3m registered users since January. For TV audiences, Comedy Central continued to do well but MTV visitors were watching the site less frequently. Overall, revenue for the TV properties was up 10% but operating income was down by 3%.

For the Paramount Studios component, sales were up 27%, but there was an operating loss. Filmed entertainment operating income showed a loss of $105.7 million, from net income of $51.1 million for the same period last year. That was attributed to increase in expenses related to higher print and advertising costs.

More detailed press coverage on Viacom’s finances can be found at:

Yahoo Finance
Google Finance
Viacom Fact Sheet

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