New Fund Looks to Light a Spark

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A former Turner Network Television executive, a Massachusetts venture capitalist and film producer and a one-time new-media strategist for Blockbuster Inc. are formally launching a $260 million fund Monday that will invest in businesses that use technology to deliver media in “high-risk, high-reward” opportunities.

The new firm, Spark Capital, is being formed by Dennis Miller, who was executive vice president responsible for production and original programming for TNT from 1990-95; Todd Dagres, who notably backed digital-content caching firm Akamai Technologies Inc. while a partner at Battery Ventures in Wellesley, Mass.; and Santo Politi, former president of new media at Blockbuster, who was responsible for figuring out how to move the video-rental giant into digital-broadcasting and video-on-demand services.

Other partners include Paul J. Conway, former chief financial officer at Charles River Ventures, and Bijan Sabet, previously an entrepreneur-in-residence at Charles River.

The Boston-based partners are focusing on “solving big problems” in the digital delivery of media, Miller said, including how to technically achieve the legal sharing of movies, video programs and other digital files in so-called peer-to-peer networks online; how to organize and search through large amounts of video programming in digital repositories; how to move “beyond the remote control” in helping viewers and users of such content to find what they need; and developing new ways of accounting for the results of advertising that appears on computers or home television screens.

New cable channels likely won’t get much attention. “It’s almost impossible to get a 24-by-7 linear video channel launched today,” Miller said.

But big media companies’ interest in finding ways to profitably and securely deliver their content in new ways might bode well for the financial returns that the fund can generate, he added.

For more on Spark Capital, please see Tom Steinert-Threlkeld’s story on page 18 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.

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