The Friday Interview: Erik Lumer, Babelgum

8 Jun 2007

This week’s interviewee is Erik Lumer (pictured), CEO of internet TV company Babelgum, which employs 30 people at its global HQ in Dublin and plans to grow to 100 staff.

How does Babelgum work?

You have to download a small piece of software that you install on your PC. It contains the player and all the things you need to access the content.

People can try it now, but are there some restrictions?

It’s not a commercial launch. It will take several months before the platform and content have reached the right level. Between now and the end of the year we are going to incrementally build up content.

What kind of programmes will you show?

We can afford to have an extremely broad range of content that you don’t see normally on traditional TV. There will be a lot of short films, animation, a lot of library material and documentaries that are hard to find.

There will also be plenty of content around sports and hobbies, entertainment, news and fashion.

What makes Babelgum different?

Today, 99pc of video on the internet is sporadic viewing of short clips. We’re really making a leap forward in terms of the delivery technology, which is a hybrid peer-to-peer streaming platform.

It makes it much more scalable and robust than internet delivery services today. The content is higher-resolution and longer.

Strategically, where is Babelgum: an alternative to video websites or to TV itself?

We’re moving into a space of a kind of content that, today, is not consumed over the internet. This is much more an on-demand streaming experience.
The real challenge is to offer something that’s really competing with television on the content level. People are now spending more time on the internet than on TV.

How will you make money?

The business model is: it’s free for users and will be supported by targeted advertising. It should make the advertising pretty effective and also relevant.

Why did you set up in Ireland – is it purely for tax reasons?

We set up in Ireland because we’re a European company and wanted to keep the headquarters in Europe.

We needed to be in a country that has a good base of technical and service expertise, and Ireland has been successful in attracting multinational players.
Tax reasons will only be beneficial further down the road when we turn a profit.

We have a very different profile from companies that set up in Ireland, where they’re large companies with their headquarters somewhere else. In our case, we are a start-up.

What will the Irish operation do?

All the technical infrastructure is in Ireland: the central servers for delivering content and all customer operations are based in Dublin.

By Gordon Smith

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