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Those guys. Again.

Fri, 07/08/2011 - 1:30pm
Brian Santo

A bunch of high-profile refugees from BitTorrent emerged from under the rock they've been carefully hiding under for three years to show off their new thing: a company called Flingo and its new technology which lets consumers fling content from the web – think YouTube and Vimeo – to their broadband connected TVs.

That make it is sort of the opposite of Echostar's Sling technology, which slings content from TV to web (to somewhere else), which even the Flingo guys were ready to acknowledge.

One of those guys is former BitTorrent president Ashwin Navin, who quit that position in 2008 to form Flingo along with another BitTorrent founder, David Harrison, now Flingo's CTO.

Where BitTorrent started out catering to individual consumers – and ultimately earned no little corporate enmity for it, Flingo from the get-go is aiming to fulfill the needs of both consumers and a specific corporate constituency: TV makers.

Consumers get a free and easy way to get web-based content on their TVs (a video demo is here), using a PC, laptop, smartphone or other mobile device.

TV makers get a shot at a new revenue streams by providing interactive applications and interactive advertising delivered through the broadband channel. Flingo intends to make money by taking a piece of that action.

Advertising can be key, Navin said, because Flingo can provide the kind of detailed metrics that advertisers are accustomed to getting from the web, but aren't yet getting consistently from broadcasters.

Interactivity is enabled by a technology the company calls Hovercraft, that enables them to synch apps to the program being displayed. The process, Navin explained, identifies video in much the same way that services like Shazam identify audio.

The new company already has deals to embed Flingo technology in connected TVs from Samsung, LG, Vizio, Sanyo, Insignia, and Western Digital. This group represents more than half of all TVs sold in the U.S. today.

The inclusion of Western Digital is also interesting in that it doesn't make TVs. Either it's got plans to start, or it will be incorporating the Flingo technology in its product line that combines media playing capabilities and media storage.

On the technology side, the company lists partnerships with the aforementioned CE manufacturers, along with Google, HTC, Adobe, TiVo, Intel, Broadcom, Yahoo, Brightcove, and Ooyala, among others.

On the content side, Flingo has partnerships with Cox (the content operation, not the cable part), Showtime, Fox, PBS, CBS, MTV, and Warner Bros.

Will this be directly competitive with service providers?

Navin noted that the latest stats from Nielsen show the average American watches 5 hours of TV a day, and that number keeps growing over the years. He believes that viewing enabled by Flingo is more likely to be in addition to viewing that's already going on.

"We don't think we're taking anything from subscription TV," he said, though he allowed "we can't say that's the case for every one of our partners."

A likely reference to the CE manufacturers. Flingo's pitch is no doubt attractive to them. MVPDs are making healthy profits while CE companies exist on razor-thin margins. It's no secret that CE companies would like a slice of the programming/advertising pie.

"It's time that they got some of that," Navin said.

It may be just coincidence, but yesterday DisplaySearch happened to release a prediction that by 2015, half of all TVs sold (or 138 million) will be Internet connected, up from 25 percent of all TVs today.


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