OTT Aggregator Enters U.S. To Fill Gaps for All Players

Jerome de Vitry, CEO, Miniweb

Jerome de Vitry, CEO, Miniweb

January 20, 2011 ­ – Miniweb, the U.K.-based facilitator of over-the-top content aggregation for consumer electronics manufacturers and content suppliers, is bringing its services to the U.S. with an eye toward creating long-tail service opportunities that could benefit service providers as well.

The company has new wind in its sails thanks to global distribution deals with Samsung, China’s largest set-top box manufacturer DTM and Vestel, a Turkish white-label TV manufacturer. Samsung has launched Miniweb’s woomi TV service on connected TVs and Blu-ray players in Britain with plans to add tablets to the mix as it expands the offering worldwide in the year ahead.

“Content owners want to get to connected TVs and other devices; CE manufacturers need content for their new service offerings,” says Miniweb CEO Jerome de Vitry. “We’re the marketplace that does that, and, as such, we’re the only player in what has been an empty space.”

Critically, he adds, the woomi solution takes the hassles out of formatting content for every device delivery platform, which can be daunting for content owners and service providers alike, especially when it comes to serving niche audiences with highly valued programming which would otherwise be impossible to supply cost effectively. “If you’re smaller than a Netflix or you’re addressing smaller markets, it’s hard to justify spending $200,000 for every platform,” de Vitry says.

Miniweb, playing the role of agent to all sides, licenses and aggregates content from its content clients into all the formats required to deliver the content to its CE clients and presents the options on an easy-to-use navigation interface that links to existing UIs on targeted devices. This is distinct from what Google TV does, where the object is to support search and delivery of Web content to connected TVs while leaving it to individual CE firms to negotiate with individual suppliers for rights to protected content.

“The CE industry sees over-the-top service as a major marketing tool, but the complications of providing content that’s of value to end users have been a major barrier to progress,” says Miniweb founder and chief architect Ian Valentine. “The industry needs an accelerator.”

As a cloud-based service, woomi can accommodate endless expansion of content options as suppliers deliver their metadata and RSS feeds into the Miniweb formatting and delivery mechanisms, Valentine notes. As new devices are brought into the system, woomi supplies them with the thin clients that allow those devices to engage with its back-office and distribution systems.

“Content providers have distribution relationships with us as the agent, and we in turn have the relationships with CE manufacturers that allow them to gain access to all that content, and then we provide the user experience and quality-of-service performance that both sides are looking for,” Valentine says. woomi allows content publishers total control and personalization of their brand and business models and offers them a complete monetization solution either through single end-user secure payments or advertizing, he adds.

Minieweb is approaching the U.S. with an eye toward serving needs that are somewhat different from markets elsewhere. “In Europe half the homes don’t have pay TV operators,” de Vitry says. “In Asia 80 percent don’t. That means, for example that half the population in Europe and 80 percent in Asia can’t access CNN.”

Moreover, with geographic boundaries cutting off ubiquitous distribution of programming native to various countries, there’s a vast market for such content beyond those borders, which is another big opportunity for OTT providers.

“In the U.S., where you have a very large national market with 85 percent of the people on pay TV, there’s a need to provide programming of great interest to specific audiences ­ ethnic, demographic, special interest, etc. ­ which isn’t available over pay TV outlets,” de Vitry says. “So, in the U.S., our view is that we’re going to be more of a distribution play for content suppliers who aren’t part of the subscription mainstream.”

As cable operators and telcos move to create their own OTT service components to fend off competition from connected-CE suppliers they will have a need for the woomi service as well, Valentine says. “We make it much more cost efficient with minimal operations hassles for service providers to create a controlled OTT experience,” he adds.

Miniweb is in negotiations with many CE manufacturers and content suppliers, which officials expect to result in a major expansion of content and device options on its platform in the year ahead. So far, the firm has announced it has collaboration agreements with EZTakes, Openfilm, Playboy, Videojug and Blinkx. Executives say it will be announcing several additional agreements with manufacturers at this year’s NATPE show.