Video search site Blinkx signs Microsoft pact

Microsoft licenses Blinkx technology to power video search on parts of MSN and Live.com.

YouTube is a load of laughs. Finding something specific you want to watch is another matter.

For searching video on the Web, Blinkx.tv is emerging as the way consumers on a range of Web sites and media properties find what is available.

On Monday, Blinkx will announce potentially one of its biggest deals to date, with Microsoft, which has agreed to use Blinkx technology to power the video search on some parts of its MSN Internet sites and Live.com.

"We will be the single biggest video search engine on the Web," Suranga Chandratillake, Blinkx co-founder and chief technology officer, said in an interview.

Blinkx already powers video search on sites ranging from AOL to ITN, Lycos and Times Online. It also indexes video from the likes of BCC, Fox, MTV, Sky News, Reuters and YouTube and makes and makes videos on those sites searchable on Blinkx or partner sites.

To date, the company has indexed more than six million hours of audio, video and TV programming to make it searchable.

Instead of a cut of advertising revenue, Microsoft has agreed to pay Blinkx an outright licensing fee based on how much use visitors to Microsoft Web sites make of the Blinkx search system, Chandratillake said.

"It could mean from zero to millions of dollars," Chandratillake said of the potential value of the Microsoft deal to Blinkx. Last month, Blinkx also signed a deal to power the video search of broadband entertainment site Lycos.

Beyond text and title
As consumer interest in watching video on the Web has exploded with the wider availability of broadband connections, Blinkx has focused on going beyond simple text-search methods to develop audio- and image-search tools.

The San Francisco-based company uses voice recognition, image and contextual analysis, which helps computers calculate whether an image may be a human face, a nature setting or some other scene.

"When a computer looks at a piece of video, for the most part, it has no idea what is going on," Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff said.

Using Blinkx, a consumer can search for videos based on keywords or phrases. The results reflect not just a search of titles or text information attached to the video but also uses speech recognition to find matching words in audio tracks.

Founded in early 2004, the 27-employee company is self-funded with the help of several angel investors, Chandratillake said. It has taken $12 million to $13 million and spent three-quarters of that amount. Its costs are low and revenues are now beginning to flow.

"Becoming cash-flow positive is not our biggest single goal," Chandratillake said, adding: "I get plenty of VC (venture-capital) offers."

Unlike YouTube or Google, Blinkx stores search information on videos, but not the videos themselves, meaning that computer costs are kept low. "It makes for cheaper legal bills," he quips, referring to copyright issues raised by storing video.

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