Irishman at spearhead of Skype duo’s digital dream


20 Dec 2006

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Irish digital media entrepreneur Stephen McCormack of Wildwave has at least three channels among the first internet protocol TV (IPTV) stations in the world to feature on the latest venture by Kazaa and Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom’s still code-named Venice Project.

Friis and Zennstrom were the founders of file-sharing site Kazaa and they went on to create voice over IP player Skype, which they sold to eBay for US$2.6bn in September 2005.

Their latest venture, code-named the Venice Project, is an IPTV service that the intrepid duo intend to compete against the BBC’s planned IPTV venture and video-on-demand offerings from BT Group, Channel 4 and ITV.

The due were inspired by the current growth in popularity of services like YouTube and MySpace.com.

The Venice Project is currently being trialled by 6,000 people and is capable of displaying high-quality, full-screen video on a computer screen. Users just download the software and off they go.

Unlike YouTube or MySpace, however, the service will feature professionally produced content that will be encrypted before being broadcast.

The service currently features content from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, MTV, Warner, the Virgin Festival and Paris Hilton.

The entire service is full-screen as opposed to based on a standard web browser and combines a classic TV feel with cutting-edge design.

McCormack, who was previously involved in setting up e-business consultancy Nebula as well as Wi-Fi player Bitbuzz, currently has three channels on the Venice Project.

These include the Wildlight Channel, which features short films from international directors; Havok Music, which features indie music; and Havok Extreme, a channel dedicated to Extreme Sports.

“The whole genre of the internet is changing the way we consume TV,” McCormack observed. “YouTube, for example, has 100 million viewers a day. This is having a major impact on the distribution model for TV content.

“In the US alone the TV industry is worth US$67bn a year and this is going to start transitioning online.”

McCormack described the Venice Project as an initiative to push TV-quality programming onto the internet. “The reality is that web streaming is actually difficult to provide. The more people who stream the more difficult and expensive it is to provide the service.

“They [Friis and Zennstrom] figured out with Kazaa that the peer-to-peer model for streaming video is actually more effective. Instead of corralling everyone to a central point, video streaming on a peer-to-peer basis is better. The more people who watch it, the cheaper and better the quality is. The result will be high-definition streaming,” McCormack said.

He said he came across the Venice Project at the annual MipCom festival in Canada, a trade show for the audiovisual industry. “They came across Wildlight on various mobile networks and contacted us and invited us onto Project Venice.

“With our channels our aim is to get onto as many digital platforms as possible, whether it’s a mobile network or Google Video. We are focused exclusively on the new consumer of content and we see these guys taking it to millions of internet users eventually,” McCormack told siliconrepublic.com.

By John Kennedy

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