Venture Round Up: Net Video Financing Recap


The period leading up the the Thanksgiving holiday tends to be among the quieter times for venture investments but plenty of checks are getting written. In fact, despite an increasingly crowded market and lack of new "disruptive" technologies, Internet video remains hot. mDialog and Vitrue are among the slate who’ve gotten new capital. Here’s a roundup of five recent deals.

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NBC gets in the Game: In-Game Advertising

nbc igaBack in July, via Peacock Equity, GE and its subsidiary NBC Universal, invested in in-game advertising network IGA Worldwide $25m Series B Financing. Now in a move best labeled as somewhat curious, NBCU and IGA have struck an operational deal too.

According to a press release issued Tuesday, IGA and NBCU have made a pact that will allow NBCU’s ad sales force to sell inventory from IGA’s "Radial" in-game ad network.

In-Game Advertising offers the ability to serve dynamic advertising within a video game. The common example is the billboard in the background of a sporting game. Once upon a time it might have been available for a one time "product placement" where a sponsor bought the rights in perpetuity. But now, thanks to Internet technologies, in-game ads allow that billboard to be sold repeatedly and managed as if it’s real advertising real estate. Through net connections (for consoles or computer based games), the billboard (or other ads) can be changed similar to the way banners are changed on a web page. With in-game ads, media buyers can buy time-based ads and game publishers can derive an ongoing stream of revenue.

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Sing What? Gracenote and MTV sign deal for Music Lyrics

I’ll take famously misidentified song lyrics for $2,000 please Alex. … um…what is Purple Haze?

MTV GracenoteIt’s sometimes hard to believe but Internet searches for song lyrics are a popular activity. The unenunciated, the misheard, the garbled – they stoke our curiosity. And the mistaken ones, Mondegreen’s as they’re called, they make for good trivia and occasional laughs. There have even been books written to collect them.

Music being the soundtracks of our lives, I guess it’s only natural that we want to know what they’re saying. And apparently, we want to know enough that it’s become big business. Lyric websites have provoked copyright lawsuits and cease and desist orders time and time again.

Last April, Gracenote signed a first of kind deal with Yahoo to provide authorized lyrics (licensed from the music publishers) across Yahoo’s music sites. This week, in their second major deal, Gracenote added MTV Networks (MTV, VH1, CMT) to their client roster.

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MSNBC and NBC Sports Deal on Web Content

nbc isn’t going to be confused with ESPN for sports centric reporting any time soon but that doesn’t mean quality sports coverage isn’t a priority at the NBC and Microsoft owned Internet news portal.  Big changes are due on the site just in time for the Superbowl.

Announced today, the report is MSNBC and have entered a multi year syndication deal where NBCSports will provide all sports related content for the site. The offering will include everything from video and fantasy sport coverage to breaking news.

Content changes that are part of the deal will be effective immediately.  A major relaunch and promotional campaign supporting the changes are due in February.

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Video Site Hulu Rolls into Beta

hulu beta smallFew companies are victims of more pre-launch scrutiny than Hulu.  The NBC/Universal and News Corp joint venture has been derided as too little too late.  Some have called it a YouTube killer. Others’ have called it a bad joke.  It’s been challenged as an impossible, ill-conceived dream. The video site has even but mocked with the literally intended nickname Clown Co.   … and all that is without putting forth a single service or feature for critics to feed on.

Today that changes. With the launch of an invitation-only public Beta, Hulu will finally face critics head-on.  At last, the questions, all theoretical until now, are up for measurement.  

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Sony Electronics Earn, Gaming Drags

sony upThe PS3 and Blu Ray may be Sony’s bigger bets but camera’s and consumer electronics are increasingly proving to be their steady hand. When earnings were announced today, it was the strength of camera’s and televisions that carried them. Net profit for September was in at $646.7m. That was largely thanks to strong electronics sales (which account for 2/3rds of annual sales). On the quarter Sony hit their highest earnings results in three quarters. They also adjusted forecasts upwards for the fiscal year (which ends March 2008).

Despite keeping on track for their 5% operating margin goal, however, gaming remains the leading story. The beleaguered game division returned the 7th consecutive losing quarter. And the losses are only getting worse. This quarter was a negative hit of $848m, nearly double the loss for the same quarter last year.

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Penguin walks from eMusic Audio Books

emusic bookUsually market experiments run for a few months; enough time to draw data to evaluate. Penguin Audio books decided not to wait.  Just the opposite, they pulled the ripcord on an audio book market experiment with eMusic after just a month’s time.

eMusic is the number two seller of digital music behind iTunes. They made their market by selling unencrypted DRM-Free music.  Last month, they expanded into audio books following the same recipe: selling books without digital copyright encryption.  Penguin was one of five founding participants in eMusic’s digital books initiative.   They offered 150 titles that they were simultaneously selling with copyright protections on iTunes.

Earlier this week Penguin decided to go  DRM or bust.   They’ll stick with iTunes but are dropping eMusic.

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