Thursday, April 02, 2009

Sorenson Sparks Video on Verizon's New Hub Product -- Verizon Calls Spark Internet Video's "High-Quality" & "Most Common Format"

On the heels of our partnership announcement with Avid earlier this week, today Verizon announces its new strategic partnership -- with us, Sorenson Media. Verizon is the latest blue chip company to recognize the power of our industry-leading Sorenson Spark video codec. Verizon has licensed Sorenson Spark to power video on its new high-visibility touch screen phone system christened the "Verizon Hub." Verizon has put its full marketing muscle behind this new device, including prime-time television ads.

Other licensees of Sorenson Spark include industry behemoth YouTube -- but the list goes on and on. And, expect other major announcements very soon.

Why Sorenson Spark? Because our video codec revolutionized video over the Internet. We gave then-Macromedia Flash (now Adobe Flash) the power to play video in the first place (in other words, we are the video technology behind Flash). This means that literally over one billion video files on the Internet were encoded with Sorenson Spark -- and that means that Sorenson Spark is absolutely necessary to play (decode) that video content (in essence, that video is exclusively Spark's). Without Sorenson Spark, that video is dead. Think of all that content on YouTube ... you need Sorenson Spark to enjoy it. Verizon and others recognize that. In the words of Mike Lanman, Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for Verizon Wireless:

"One of the most exciting features for Verizon Hub customers is the ability to watch video on their home phones. By integrating Sorenson Spark, our customers benefit from access to high-quality video playback in the industry's most common format."

And, apart from enabling high quality video, Sorenson Spark is incredibly efficient. That is especially critical with new form factors like the "Verizon Hub" and in the mobile world. Sorenson Spark uniquely empowers mobile hand-sets to play YouTube video in the highest possible quality and at a full 30 frames per second. In a word, if you want your mobile customers to be able to enjoy video on their handsets/phones, then you need Sorenson Spark. Period. Full stop.

Sorenson Spark ... there is NO substitute.

Veoh -- The First & Original YouTube (Yes, the First!) -- But Will Its New Compass Point North?

At heavily-trafficked online video destination site Veoh, based here in my back yard of San Diego, it was no April Fool's yesterday.  On the contrary, the news was all too real ... and sobering ... as the company announced significant "restructuring" which led to the lay-off of at least 25 employees.  No level went unscathed, as the heavily financed company ($70 million in capital invested to date by a syndicate of blue-chip VCs) let go Internet veteran CEO Steve Mitgang and replaced him with Veoh's original CEO, Dmitry Shapiro, who germinated the idea of online personal "broadcast yourself" TV in the first place back in the fall of 2004.  

Dmitry is an Internet visionary.  I know him personally and have worked closely with him in the past.  And I know, for a fact, that he was the first to have conceived of -- and pitched to VCs -- personal Internet TV (in other words, what today is the YouTube phenomenon).  And, he pitched that idea and company -- which eventually became Veoh -- to incredulous prospective investors well before YouTube was a glint in anyone's eye.  These investors just didn't "get it" -- couldn't conceive that "broadcast yourself" video on the Internet would catch on.  Just think if they had ... they would be quite happy right now.

But, that's the way the world works.  And, Veoh's investors are quite far from being happy.  Even though Dmitry's revolutionary vision ultimately was realized in Veoh, YouTube got the funding first and captured the market first.  And, the rest is history ...

Yes, Veoh is one of the most heavily-trafficked online video sites.  But, that is a double-edged sword operationally of course -- bandwidth costs are simply far too high serving up all those videos, and the company hasn't found a way to monetize and justify those costs to date.  VC-backed online video destination sites simply can't compete with the likes of Google's YouTube and News Corp's/NBC Universal's (and soon to be Disney's) Hulu -- all backed by essentially endless check-writing ability.  Veoh tried to straddle both worlds of YouTube (personal TV -- think of stupid pet tricks) and Hulu (professionally produced video programming -- think of Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show"), but this tight-rope could not work.

So, Veoh reportedly has pared down to 40 employees.  And, the company is now officially retreating from its video destination roots ... and the reality of "what could have been" is now replaced with a new vision and hope of "what might be."  But, will its new Compass product point North to the promised land?