Digital Dealmakers: Ian Blaine

Jul 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The player: Ian Blaine, CEO of thePlatform

The play: ThePlatform is in a sweet spot right now, with its services, and those of other like-minded video software firms, are in high demand by media companies. ThePlatform provides software designed to make it easy for media companies to distribute video on the Internet, via mobile phones and through television set-top boxes. Its content management system handles the delivery of video for clients including ABC News Now, Scripps, Court TV, Amp’d Mobile and Comcast. Comcast, the No. 1 U.S. cable company, bought thePlatform in late June.

The pitch: ThePlatform can serve up video content to almost any device. The publishing system allows content providers to manipulate video through all stages of distribution. The system can aggregate video, set “rules” for who is allowed to view it, deliver the clips automatically in the correct format, insert advertising and receive reports on how consumers watch the video. “Our customers can put their content in our system and can distribute it to mobile networks and broadband and make money, and they can be confident it’s delivered,” Mr. Blaine said.

Pros: ThePlatform and other video software firms are well positioned to cash in during the current Internet video gold rush. As big media companies look for tools to help them deliver video in new venues, companies such as thePlatform likely will find themselves in higher demand. Comcast’s purchase of thePlatform is a strong signal that broadband video is a big opportunity for multiple system operators, said Will Richmond, president of research firm Broadband Directions. “That’s the first significant move we have seen from the cable MSO world,” he said. “Comcast as the bellwether is setting the tone for broadband video.”

Cons: Technology firms must separate the wheat from the chaff. They must ensure they are supporting sustainable business models and brands, Mr. Blaine said. “The market is so hot right now that we actually have to be discerning about which business we go after,” he said.

New parents: ThePlatform powers Comcast’s The Fan, the broadband video site that serves up about 2 million clips daily. It will operate as a subsidiary of Comcast and remain headquartered in Seattle, with Mr. Blaine as CEO. Mr. Blaine said the merged entity will continue to pursue its business model, and also will market jointly with Comcast’s Media Center in Denver, which handles more traditional services for programmers. “We believe we can integrate your feed with the media center to more fully service programmers,” he said.

The backstory: Mr. Blaine founded thePlatform in June 2000, running the company out of a hot warehouse in the industrial district of Seattle and enduring both an earthquake and a flood in the early days. Before he started thePlatform, Mr. Blaine founded online personal information management company UniPlanet, which he sold to NBCi, then NBC’s Internet division. He also spent nine years with Adobe Systems.

In the mix: Competitors include Entriq, Extend Media and Brightcove. Other video software firms such as Anystream, which flips content for distribution to multiple platforms, are more complementary, Mr. Blaine said. Mr. Blaine, 36, is a native and lifelong resident of Seattle. He attended the University of Washington and is married with two young children.

The money guys: ThePlatform raised $4.5 million in 2000 from Davenport Ventures. In 2002, Reliacast bought the Platform, providing another cash infusion. ThePlatform then raised $8 million in 2005 from Spark Capital.

The numbers: Mr. Blaine declined to disclose whether thePlatform was profitable prior to Comcast’s acquisition.

First job: At age 14, Mr. Blaine mowed lawns.

Who knew?

An avid cyclist who regularly rides 100 miles at a time, Mr. Blaine once rode his bike from Seattle to Portland, about 200 miles, in one day.

What keeps him up at night?

In addition to his two children, he said, he thinks about what’s next in the market in the wee hours of the morning.

Who should be worried?

Traditional advertising is threatened by technology that lets people watch TV shows whenever they want, Mr. Blaine said. “It’s becoming much more uncertain … how effective ad spends are against traditional broadcast TV. The companies that help advertisers transition these dollars are well positioned … You will see dollars migrating to more measurable scenarios, whether [video-on-demand] or television online. Anyplace where you can get measurability, you will see more dollars flowing. But ultimately, TV will get there as well.”