Former NBC exec looks to tap streaming market

A former NBC broadband executive has teamed with streaming media pioneer Intervu to launch a video marketing and entertainment start-up called Hitplay Media.

3 min read
Hoping to capitalize on the growing demand for multimedia on the Web, a former NBC broadband executive has teamed with streaming media pioneer Intervu to launch an entertainment start-up called Hitplay Media.

Seeking to provide Net users with movie previews, sports events and other programming, Hitplay aims to pipe content to any number of Internet devices, from PCs to in-store Internet kiosks, the company said.

Hitplay's streaming video service will be powered by Intervu, which will manage and distribute all video, audio and multimedia for the company. San Diego-based Intervu last week expanded its partnership with Time Warner's CNN News Group and has content distribution deals with NBC, Microsoft and German media giant Bertelsmann.

Hitplay said that Intervu chief technology officer and founder Brian Kenner will join Hitplay's board of advisers.

"Hitplay's content customers will benefit from the powerful combination of Hitplay's targeted video [advertisements and] multiplatform distribution and Intervu's first-rate streaming delivery services," Harry Gruber, Intervu's chief executive, said in a statement.

Hitplay enters a growing arena in which major media companies are teaming with Internet and software giants to deliver streaming media programming online. Earlier this week, Warner Bros. joined forces with Microsoft to broadcast a Webisode of the "Drew Carey Show" simultaneously with an airing of the TV program on ABC.

On its preview Web site, however, Hitplay says its video network is being built specifically for the Web. It plans to offer only short-form content.

The company plans to launch a targeted video network in February and a larger network of ad-supported video channels by June 2000. Hitplay's streaming video content will be delivered through multiple formats, such as Microsoft's Windows Media Player, and will be available in connection speeds from 56 kbps to 300 kbps.

"Entertainment video over the Internet is no longer a boutique business," Todd Harris, a former broadband strategist for NBC and founder and CEO of Hitplay, said in a statement. "Hitplay was designed…with programming, targeting and reach that advertisers and audiences demand from a next-generation media company."

Hitplay said it will gear programming to attract Net users aged 18 to 34, focusing on game previews, music videos and fashion shows. The company announced that Tatum Communications will provide production assistance and live-events sports programming.

Still, the company may want to heed the examples of its peers as it enters a market of start-ups targeting streaming content and e-commerce in a variety of niches.

Digital Entertainment Network, for example, offers original streaming content targeted at teens. But the company has had problems with low production quality and internal management shake-ups. Analysts have said that companies with unknown brands and untested business models may face major challenges when it comes to impressing investors and keeping consumers.

"The Net is not ready for linear, TV-style programming--the experience isn't great," Patrick Keane, a senior analyst at Jupiter Communications, said in an earlier interview.

But other analysts have said that the streaming programming market is one to watch.

"Video as entertainment is not going to be the killer application for the Web anytime soon," Jupiter music analyst Mark Mooradian said in a previous interview. Yet since the market for downloadable music has caught on, streaming start-ups may be on the right track, he added.

News.com's Courtney Macavinta contributed to this report.