Culture

Comcast buys Net video delivery provider

ThePlatform sells technology for delivering audio and video over the Net to clients such as CNBC.

Cable operator Comcast has bought ThePlatform, a broadband video provider, in a move to profit from rising consumer demand for video entertainment online.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. ThePlatform CEO Ian Blaine said the deal was finalized Wednesday.

Seattle-based thePlatform, founded in 2000, sells technology for delivering audio and video over the Internet to about 60 clients, including CNBC, Verizon Wireless, the Food Network and Comcast. By acquiring its technology partner, Comcast will own tools for distribution of information and entertainment over the Internet that are similar to those it has for such distribution via cable television. With ThePlatform, Comcast can build out its broadband offerings while selling potential cable customers on the services too.

"Someone that Comcast serves on the cable front may want to extend that to broadband offerings," Blaine said in an interview Thursday with CNET News.com. "We could deliver something seamlessly, and the (content) company wouldn't be constrained by the footprint of Comcast."

ThePlatform, with roughly 55 employees, will remain based in Seattle as a wholly owned subsidiary of Comcast Interactive Media, based in Philadelphia.

The deal highlights the ongoing frenzy around broadband video. YouTube, Google and MySpace, for example, have become overnight hits with Web surfers looking to watch quirky user-generated video clips, popular music videos or TV bloopers.

Meanwhile, traditional print publishers like The New York Times are getting into the broadband act by distributing newly created video over the Internet. Companies like ThePlatform and rival Brightcove are apparently scurrying to serve them, and deliver on a promise, as Blaine puts it, to give consumers content how and when they want it.

"We are finally seeing convergence becoming a reality," said Blaine. "Consumers are time-shifting their consumption of video...and it's going to be consumed more and more on their terms."

The acquisition follows a major round of funding ThePlatform received in January, when it raised $8 million from Boston-based Spark Capital. At the time, the company said it had reached cash-flow breakeven in May 2005, and that it expected to double its business this year.