Internet Video

Seeking a Video-Search Leader

3/30/2007 8:00 PM Eastern

At Google Video, the Web-search colossus provides super-fast results culled from a whopping 26.9 million clips — and climbing.

Type in “Lost,” and the first thing that turns up is a tidbit called “Nobody’s Watching Lost” on YouTube, a 3-minute clip described thusly: “Happy Halloween! Actually, we ARE watching Lost. Here’s another tribute to a show we love …”

Well, that might be someone’s idea of the start to a fun evening. But some new entrants into Internet video search believe that existing models of finding TV content online don’t work all that well.

First up in the tryouts to become the “TV Guide of the Internet” is TV Guide itself. The online division of Gemstar-TV Guide International on April 16 plans to launch the beta version site that provides links to professionally produced programming from broadcasters and cable networks.

A Guide to Web-Video Guides
Site No. of clips indexed What makes it different?
Google Video 26,914,596 It’s Google
TV Guide Online Video Guide 72,000 Focused on professional cable/broadcast content
ClipBlast 444,544 Large index coupled with simple interface
Channels.com 2,812 Packages video into “playlists,” which can be shared
AOL Video “Millions of videos” Destination for free content from brands “you know and trust” plus Web-only stuff
Blinkx “7 million hours” Uses “visual analysis and speech recognition” to index content.
Source: Multichannel News research

Other startups — including Blinkx, ClipBlast and Channels.com — think they can also outplay the big portals like Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL.

With Web video today, every single video-destination site basically has its own electronic program guide, said Channels.com CEO Sean Doherty.

“That would be like if there was an EPG on every channel on cable,” Doherty said. “You wouldn’t be able to find anything.”

No leaders have yet emerged to dominate the space, said Will Richmond, president of consulting firm Broadband Directions. He said there’s a desperate need for quality guides to online video that provide more categorization to allow for easier browsing, as opposed to keyword searches.

“There’s been a huge explosion in this kind of content,” Richmond said. “Consumers really have a need for guides. Content providers have a need for guides to help their content get discovered.”

TV Guide hopes it has the pull to become the jumping-off point for Web-video viewers. The TV Guide Online Video Guide indexes and provides summaries for video content on 55 Web sites, ranging from A&E Network’s Web site to Yahoo TV, and from Apple’s iTunes to VH1’s VSpot.

So far, the guide — code-named Project Stingray (www.projectstingray.com) — has data on 72,000 clips. Most of the content is scanned for automatically by TV Guide’s servers, which extract the “metadata” (the information about a piece of video) and push it into the right category.

For the most part, TV Guide won’t serve up any video itself. Instead, the ad-supported site will provide direct links to authorized streaming or downloadable video. Shows will be listed by genre, network and popularity.

“It’s the next generation of the listing grid,” TV Guide Online general manager Paul Greenberg said.

TV Guide, which started the project nine months ago, will have to fight for attention against a slew of video-search sites, many of which have been trawling for this kind of content for years.

Unlike Google or Yahoo, though, TV Guide isn’t intending to scour the entire Web for every bit of weird user-generated content in cyberspace, Greenberg said. He positioned TV Guide Online Video Guide as a more editorially focused way to find well-known content from name-brand producers.

“The myth is that people are searching for user-generated content,” he said. “There’s a market need we’re trying to fill — people who are searching for professionally produced content.”

That said, TV Guide Online Video Guide will include some user-generated content. But it will be “high-end” material, Greenberg said, like the famous “Diet Coke and Mentos” video. The site will also include links to online-only video sites, such as NBC Universal’s Brilliant But Cancelled and iVillage and MTV Networks’ Ifilm.

“ 'TV’ doesn’t mean the television set anymore,” Greenberg said.

An even more human-oriented Internet TV guide is Channels.com. Founded in December 2004, the startup’s key attribute is the ability to let anyone organize Web video into a sequence — a playlist — and then share that collection with anyone else.

Call Channels.com the anti-Google: The content on the site is “not built by algorithm,” said CEO Doherty. “They’re playlists curated by people.”

The Channels.com syndication system can be centrally programmed by the owner of the playlist. Video is played in an embedded Web player but hosted at the content owner’s site. “It’s a piece of real estate for video programmers to use as entertainment or promotion for their video content,” Doherty said.

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