Ethnic Video Online to DVRs Part of Startup’s Plans


A privately-funded company founded by veteran AT&T Corp. engineer Bob Burke this week will launch a venture designed to sell online video content to non-English speakers.

The company, Broadband Networks Inc., initially expects to sell its set-tops directly to consumers through home electronics retailers such as Best Buy Co., Fry Electronics Inc. or Radio Shack, said company founder and CEO Burke.

Ultimately, Burke wants to strike deals with MSOs or Internet service providers seeking a product for local ethnic groups that are substantial but not big enough to justify programming an entire linear channel.

Burke said such agreements would be subject to negotiation but Broadband Networks Inc. anticipates pacts that will offer partner companies a share of the monthly revenue from service subscribers.

The hardware, branded timeshifTV, is a 40-gigabyte digital video recorder that, in addition to downloading and recording specialized content, is partitioned so it can be used as an extra digital storage device and content manager for home PCs.

The company has set up a Web site to begin marketing the boxes as early as July. But the content packages won’t be marketed until Christmas, Burke said.

The player supports media playback standards, including Microsoft Windows Media 9.

Burke said the hardware could be used to view digital pictures and listen to music downloaded to a home computer then transferred to the television set.

The set-top can be configured to filter out unauthorized peer-to-peer downloads such as those from Kazaa, he added.

Burke said he and company founders have 20 pending patents on their data storage and movement techniques.

For example, to speed the flow of information along the network, some information will be stored on one set-top for retrieval by another set-top.

The set-tops will be sold for $199 to $599. Higher-end versions can enable Web browsing and video conferencing, Burke said.

The company intends to package 10 to 30 channels per language, which will be marketed for a $20-$30 per month subscription fee.

The target market includes speakers of Spanish, Hindi, Chinese (including Mandarin), French, Italian, Japanese, Polish and Korean.

U.S. Census data shows that as many as 62 million U.S. residents are foreign born. Based on revenue generated by the sale and rental of non-English video tapes to that segment, immigrants segment could be spending as much as $6.78 billion on content in their native languages by 2008, Burke added.

In some markets, consumers pay as much as $15 per month for a single linear channel, he noted, so a package of similar content should be attractive.

Burke is developing the business plan with Internet veterans, as well as some former cable executives. Former Charter Communications Inc. marketer Brian Gruber is among those consulting on the new venture.