Tel Aviv-based startup Vidmind came out of stealth today and debuted its cloud-based TV solution, which lets operators, broadcasters and retailers essentially create a white labeled version of Netflix. The company provides an Android-based set top box that can be branded for any company, cloud infrastructure to build a streaming TV service, back-end management for operators, clients for multiple platforms including mobile tablet and PC, and built-in second screen and social features so viewers can interact around content.
Vidmind was started by Danny Peled, the founder of video company GooMe, which developed apps for broadcast providers and counted Vodafone and Orange as customers. “At the end of our time at GooMe we decided that we wanted to create a platform for OTT [over-the-top content],” Peled said. “We thought that there is big potential for a fully hosted solution for TV services.” The company lets retailers, broadcasters or content creators create a cloud-based video-on-demand (VOD) and live streaming hub, which customers can access on a subscription basis.
He said that while Netflix’s cloud-based VOD service is popular in the U.S., he believes there’s opportunity to bring that model to other countries around the world (the service is currently available in the U.S, Canada, UK, Ireland, and Latin America, and the company is expanding to several other European countries by the end of 2012). “We think that over-the-top platform has a very vibrant and low-risk model that we can offer to operators worldwide, and the fact that Netflix is trying to penetrate other continents makes it even more interesting for these operators to adopt a hosted solution in order to be first to the market.”
Vidmind provides an Android-powered set-top box, an online management platform for operators, and a developer software development kit (SDK). It operates on a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) model – it helps companies with setup, and handles digital rights management, transcoding, encrypting and delivering content, as well as contract management with studios and other content providers. They provide those services for free, and charge an ongoing fee to operators for each active user. The charge depends on how much bandwidth is being consumed (operators can set the limits and monthly subscription prices themselves), but it varies from $1-$5 per month per customer.
For consumers who want to use Vidmind, they would purchase a box from the partner retailer, connect it with a cable or via wifi, and they can then watch live TV for free or play Android games (users have access to any Android apps through the set-top box), or log into the VOD library and pay for access to that content. Vidmind can be accessed on a user’s TV, on their computer, or via iOS and Android apps. The set-top box comes with a remote control, a double-sided device that has a full QWERTY keyboard, as well as gesture navigation support for gaming.
The platform also has second screen features, letting users connect to Facebook, Twitter, and European social network Vkontakte. Users can then like content in their VOD library, check in to content much like a user would on GetGlue, or follow friends to see what they’re watching. Similar to Netflix, they also developed a proprietary recommendation engine, which takes a user’s social networks, viewing history and browsing history into account.
The company announced its launch at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam today, and is launching in field trials with a European company new to the video services business. Peled said the company’s target audience is any company that’s looking to break into the video business, or a company that wants to replace its DVD business with an online solution (he pointed to Walmart’s acquisition of digital video store Vudu).
Much like Netflix, Vidmind can replace existing cable and satellite providers for consumers, but the live TV content it offers is based on operators’ licensing deals for IP streaming, or free content over an antenna (OTA) using the European DVB-T2 standard. While it could act as a replacement, as most Netflix users know, not every studio or network will partner with any given provider, limiting the content choices.”It’s a white label solution, unlike Netflix, which is complimentary to the existing cable and satellite solutions, we’re trying to absolutely replace these platforms.”
Peled said the biggest challenge will be the competitors on the user side, everything from Netflix to regular cable to new social TV options like Apple TV, Google TV and Boxee. “For the time being we are trying to create a new niche by having an end-to-end fully hosted solution, but there are many potential competitors in this arena,” he said. He said in terms of competition on the operator side, it’s likely that other cloud-based TV solutions will pop up, and that companies can continue to cobble together solutions like they’ve done to this point.
Vidmind has external funding, though Peled declined to share how much and who it’s from. Though they’re showing off the technology for the first time today, they won’t be launching the product commercially until the end of the year. While it should have no problem attracting operators who want to replicate Netflix’s success, those operators will need to win over content partners and consumers in new markets before Netflix debuts its tried-and-true model (and content partnerships). “We’re just providing a new way or a new infrastructure to have the same old business model where the content is not infringed, and everything is done via the open internet and not piracy,” he said.