The elevator pitch of Internet video hopefuls

For start-ups in Internet video, it can be a tough sell to prove a new market. But a handful of upstarts try their hand at it at the Under the Radar Conference.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--YouTube--that's the first name in Internet video. Apple's iTunes might turn up second.

For start-ups in Internet video, it can be a tough sell to prove a new market. But a handful of upstarts tried their hand at an elevator pitch here Tuesday at the Under the Radar Conference, a one-day confab for Web start-ups. Four video-related companies presented their business models in six minutes to judges including Lewis Henderson, head of digital at the William Morris Agency, and Joshua Newman from Twentieth Century Fox.

Here are the aspiring newcomers:

Jacked
An interactive Web companion for TV broadcasts. If you want to spice up the broadcast of the Lakers game, for example, visit Jacked.com and click on the game ticket. Without downloads or connection to the TV, the site will deliver news, products, photos, sports stats, or related information to the game via an array of widgets. Launched last September, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Jacked, which has raised $6.5 million, uses a search engine to crawl the Web for content related to the live broadcast, such as Amazon.com, Associated Press, and Flickr. It has deals with the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball, among others. It supports the site with advertisements and distribution partnerships with sports leagues or, potentially, broadcast networks.

One of the first questions judges asked of the company: Why should people care? "Consumers want control over their experience. They want the convenience of everything on one page," said company executive Bryan Biniak.

MovieSet
An online social network for movie production. Independent film producers can use MovieSet's technology to publish their production schedule online and upload behind-the-scenes videos during the making of a movie. The goal is to attract fans before the film's release. The Vancouver, B.C.-based company, which recently raised $2 million, already has drawn as many as 150 feature films, including the Charlize Theron film Battle in Seattle, to the technology. MovieSet is still in beta.

One question from the judges: Why aren't you involved with the major studios? Mark Rutledge, chief operation officer of MovieSet and a former entertainment lawyer, said that the company has had several meetings with Creative Artists Agency and the studios are showing some interest. But they're not quite ready to sign up yet.

"We're taking advantage of the long tail for independent films," Rutledge said.

Verismo
AppleTV for the rest of the world. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company makes a Wi-Fi-enabled device called the Pod that plugs into the television and streams content from the Internet (no PC required, according to company CEO Prakash Bhalerao). With the Pod, people can download movies from BitTorrent, CinemaNow, or Blockbuster; watch videos from YouTube; or simply surf the Web with a Qwerty remote that controls the box. The device costs $99.

One of the judges asked, what's the difference between the Pod and Apple TV? "Apple TV goes only to the Apple site. Other than Youtube, you cannot go anywhere. I can take you to 10,000 sites," Bhalerao said.

Vusion
Encoding technology for high-definition video over the Internet. The Milpitas, Calif.-based company, which launched this month, develops a software infrastructure that will help movie studios or sports companies deliver commercial-grade video online. Grover Righter, vice president of marketing, said that the technology can serve high-definition video superior to MPED 4 or Flash players (which is encoded and encrypted) to at least 85 percent of the Internet audience. Those people need a browser plug-in, however.

How does it make money? It charges studios or sports agencies by the stream on the order of 15 cents per hour. (Righter said the company is in talks with all the major content companies.) It has raised just under $10 million.

The winner: the judges choose Vusion and the audience, Verisimo. They won a copy of Microsoft Zune or Microsoft Ultimate Software suite.

 

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