Local Players Like the Outlook for Web Video

Jon Romm, left, and Ramu Potarazu co-founded Avail Media, a Reston firm that helps deliver TV shows to any device with an Internet connection.
Jon Romm, left, and Ramu Potarazu co-founded Avail Media, a Reston firm that helps deliver TV shows to any device with an Internet connection. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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By Kim Hart
Monday, April 20, 2009

Online video has come a long way since kids with cameras started uploading homemade clips to YouTube about four years ago.

More households now have access to high-speed Internet. That growth has coincided with an increasing number of broadcast networks and niche cable stations that have put a larger and better selection of videos online, giving viewers the option of watching their favorite shows without having to pay for cable or satellite television service.

On Hulu, for example, viewers get to watch shows from more than 50 studios and networks in exchange for watching a few ads.

Those are favorable circumstances for several Washington firms that have been trying to figure out how to make money while making it even easier for people to find and watch online video.

"You're now seeing widespread mainstream usage of Internet video," said Derrick Frost, who left his role as executive vice president at Time Warner Cable in 2006 to start Bethesda-based Invision.TV, a search engine for online video. "Now it's not a question of if people watch it, it's how do you get high-quality video people want to watch and how do you monetize it?"

Frost has noticed that people are more willing to put up with a few ads to access high-quality shows rather than user-generated clips. But audiences divide their time between so many different sites and video portals that it's hard for any one to get enough viewers to make a meaningful amount of money with advertising.

Unlike a Web site like YouTube, Invision.TV does not host videos.

"We're connecting you to the content owners' Web site so they can profit from the traffic," he said. The company also syndicates video to other sites with revenue-sharing agreements. Users also can embed their own channel of favorite shows on their Facebook page.

Invision.TV wants to index all the video content on the Web so it's easier to find, providing a way for new viewers to find video destinations.

"It's not just cable and broadcast that have video online, but also emerging online producers looking for distribution," he said. "Over time that's going to be an area that expands and takes off."

Avail Media of Reston is taking a different approach to getting broadband-based television in front of viewers. The firm is working with content providers, such as a broadcasting network, and small Internet service providers to deliver TV shows to any device with an Internet connection.

For example, a company that provides telephone and broadband services could work with Avail Media to add a video component.


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