Internet Pioneer Allaire Rethinks TV Distribution
Old-media naysayers abound, but Brightcove founder has big fish on board
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/15/2006 7:00:00 PM
Some pretty big names in media, including Barry Diller and Steve Case, are betting on Jeremy Allaire. The founder of Web-video startup Brightcove has grand plans for restructuring the way video is distributed and consumed—from home videos shot by individuals all the way to the billion-dollar libraries owned by media giants.
“We envision ourselves as a new kind of platform operator, which puts the content owner in control,” Allaire says. “This gives them the ability to launch a broader range of products and have a much more direct relationship with the customer than they do with traditional cable and satellite systems.”
Internet-distributed television, talk of which dominated the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, has large factions of both naysayers and disciples. And Allaire has shown a knack for making believers out of key people. Armed with $16 million in funding from AOL, Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp., Hearst and venture-capital group Allen & Co., Brightcove recently added Diller to its board of directors. Former AOL Chief Executive Steve Case, whose cable/broadband network Lime is powered by Brightcove, is an investor as well.
DEALS WITH REUTERS AND AOL
Last month, Brightcove inked a deal with Reuters to distribute the news outlet's broadband video content to network affiliates, newspapers and other news entities. Late in 2005, Brightcove joined up with AOL to enable content owners—ranging from indie filmmakers to smaller cable networks—to upload video to AOL and monetize their content through subscriptions and/or advertising.
Though not the only company that's distributing video via broadband—Open Media Network, Veoh and Blinkx are but a handful of competitors—Brightcove is clearly making waves. “It's never been easy to get carriage and reach to an audience of 110 million people,” Allaire says of the AOL deal, “and that's the first among a number of similar types of deals that Brightcove is putting in place.”
Studying the 34-year-old Allaire's brief but eventful career path, it's not hard to see why the moguls are taking his calls. Upon graduating from Macalester College (Minnesota) in 1993, Allaire jumped into cyberspace immediately, setting up an Internet consulting business. An impassioned reader of Noam Chomsky, he took on the task of putting all of the MIT linguist/political theorist's works online. “When I graduated, the only thing I really knew about was the Internet,” Allaire says. “The Internet consultancy led into the core ideas that became Allaire Corp.”
Founded with his brother J.J., Allaire Corp. created Web-programming software ColdFusion, which, according to Allaire, powers Rupert Murdoch's social-networking site MySpace.com. Allaire became chief technology officer of Macromedia when that company bought Allaire Corp. for $360 million in 2001, and oversaw development of Web-animation software Flash. After a stint as technologist at a Cambridge, Mass.-based venture-capital firm called General Catalyst, Allaire founded Brightcove, named for a village on Cape Cod, in 2004.
From his Cambridge headquarters near MIT, Allaire is busy contemplating the future of a medium that changes every day. He has a staff of 45, and it's growing rapidly, with some major media names recently joining the payroll. Late in 2005, one of Madison Avenue's leading futurists, Adam Gerber, left MediaVest to become Brightcove's VP of advertising products and strategy. Joining him is former Discovery Networks Interactive VP Dina Roman.
Then there's Diller. “For him, it's an interesting fusion of the first generation of his career in television and film and the second generation as an interactive leader,” Allaire says. “As those two worlds converge, I think that what we're doing is very interesting to him.”
It's interesting to AOL as well. “Jeremy and his team have done a terrific job building an innovative model,” says AOL Media Networks Executive VP Kevin Conroy. “I see our agreement with Brightcove as a real win-win situation. They have a real bright future—no pun intended—and Jeremy's already demonstrated he'll be a great partner.”
NEW FOCUS ON NEW MEDIA
As the Internet-video wars—powered by Google, Yahoo! and iTunes, among others—heat up, plenty of observers maintain that content owners will continue to call the shots and new-media types will forever be relegated to the margins. But Allaire, who won't discuss Brightcove's profitability at this stage (“We're generating revenue” is all he'll say), says he encounters a much less dismissive attitude than before. “We've reached a point where the strategic thinkers and business owners are taking [online media] very seriously,” he says. “There are questions about how big a business it can be, but there's absolutely a focus on it.”
Allaire, who unwinds by poking around Boston with his wife and two young sons, continues to seek out partners, aiming to convince the traditional-media giants that he can put their content in front of a larger audience. “Our mission is to solve their [broadband] problems and let them focus on doing what they do best, which is creating great content, marketing it, branding it, programming it, etc.,” he says. “Most large media companies are not creators of platforms or platform operators.”
And as the devices on which programming is consumed continue to evolve, Allaire believes the sky's the limit for broadband video. “Most of the media businesses we're working with see huge migrations of consumer time and behavior to the PC,” he says. “There are 300 million people [worldwide] who have that device on a broadband connection. That's a big market.”
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