Behind the Fan Stands thePlatform


As content providers look to repurpose programming for an increasingly complex mix of consumer devices — from PCs to mobile video devices — finding affordable software to manage content transfer grows more important.

One company filling that space — and targeting cable networks — is thePlatform Inc., which provides a software-management system for TV video.

“We’re enabling content players to extend distribution to mobile and broadband networks,” CEO Ian Blaine said.

The company was founded in 2000 by a team of engineers from Microsoft Corp., RealNetworks Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc. In five short years, it has gained important footholds in the space with contracts with Comcast Corp., for its The Fan broadband media player, and Verizon Wireless, for its VCast mobile-video service.

“We can repurpose content for broadband sites, mobile platforms and [Internet-protocol set-top boxes],” Blaine said. “We provide content management features across multiple formats and bit rates.” The company also integrates metadata, policy management and digital rights-management software.

Scripps Networks is a big customer, Blaine said. “They use us to manage and publish content for their own Web sites.”

Software has evolved to the point that “we can provide automatic transcoding,” he said. “That cuts do on costs of redoing libraries through processing power.”

“We provide the back end for The Fan,” he continued. “Comcast uses the platform for content aggregation. We give them a rich feature set to present content in. They take their flash portal, and get information from our system to populate The Fan.”

On average, Blaine said Comcast will import 50 to 100 new videos a day. “It’s been a fantastic scale story. It’s a great reference for other big distributors.”

ThePlatform sells software as an application service provider (ASP), he said. “Pricing is tier-based, based on the activity that you’re doing. The more you use, the more the price goes down.”

Comcast High-Speed Internet customers can launch The Fan and click on a video. That clip request is routed through thePlatform to its server, located near Seattle. The software finds where that video clip is stored, and streams the clip to the home PC.

“The VCast process works the same way,” he said. “We’re not a CDN [content-distribution network]. We are a management layer on top of that.”

Blaine is seeing a large upswing in interest in the mobile arena, like VCast.

“And as IPTV starts to emerge and evolve, it looks to be a place for us with the on-demand aspects of that,” he added.

ThePlatform recently added Warren Leiberfarb, former head of Warner Bros. Home Video, to its board of directors.

“He’s helping us refine our thinking,” Blaine said.