Akimbo Makes Full Cable Pitch

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Philadelphia — Internet-based video-on-demand provider Akimbo made a full-fledged pitch to partner with the cable industry, declaring last week that it wants to be cable's Internet-based on-demand content sidecar.

At the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit here, the company said it has developed a queue-and-view client-server system that would allow cable digital video recorder subscribers to download video from Akimbo's VOD service.

Akimbo launched early this year to provide specialty content and other forms of video programming to consumers from its Web site. Over time, it's collected 3,500 programs from 140 producers.

Some of the content is ethnically based foreign-language programming from around the globe. Akimbo also has a bevy of independent video content, featuring content from iFilm, for instance. It also has signed a handful of known cable programmers, including Turner Broadcasting System Inc., for Turner Classic Movies and Cartoon Network; National Geographic Channel; and A&E Network.

At the moment, consumers can buy a $199 Akimbo set-top which can be hooked up to a cable modem to download the content to a TV set.

But Akimbo's long-term vision for the service isn't necessarily a standalone box model. CEO Josh Goldman is working to make Akimbo another application available on advanced set-tops.

“We think it fits great with cable video,” he said. “We're positioning it as a complement to cable delivered VOD.”

Goldman said Akimbo provides several advantages for cable operators. It provides so called “long-tail” programming — specialty programming geared to a small-but-loyal audience — without taking up valuable server space. The content travels over cable-modem plant, relieving the congestion on the MPEG-2 (Moving Picture Experts Group) transport plant. Content is encoded in Windows Media format, Goldman said.

The content also could help cable reach niche audiences in an increasingly competitive world, Goldman said. The content can be accessed through a menu-driven search feature. Content is divided by title, genre and network. Most consumers navigate using the “new additions” and genre categories, he said.

Akimbo isn't releasing figures on how many $199 set-tops it's sold. Goldman said most buyers are homes interested in Akimbo's ethnic programming.

But it continues to add programming, including video blogs, one of which has generated some 400,000 signups to date.

It's another example of the unique content Akimbo provides, and in which operators might be interested, he said.

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