Digital Dealmakers: Tim Peters

Aug 14, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The player: Tim Peters, CEO of BIAP

The play: BIAP has been steadily making a name for itself over the past year, powering various interactive products for Time Warner Cable, NBC Universal and eBay including fantasy baseball, Olympics stats and interactive TV auctions. That work has paid off, and the company secured $20 million in venture funding early this month.

Given how online video start-ups have been snaring most of the venture cash lately, $20 million for an interactive technology firm stands out. BIAP is one of several TV software firms that are angling for market share among cable and satellite operators who have begun to test on-screen features that let viewers interact via remote control. Interactive deployments are rising because the features have been proven to keep viewers more engaged, particularly when it comes to ads.

The pitch: BIAP’s software is based on artificial intelligence that allows distributors to expand their interactive offerings. Because the software runs in a customer’s set-top box, BIAP’s product avoids problems that arise in attempts to apply interactive technology across a whole cable system, Mr. Peters said.

BIAP also enables more targeted ads to be delivered. “There is a $70 billion advertising business that’s one-way,” Mr. Peters said. “Addressable and interactive take that one-way business and allow each box to be addressable … that can help the cable operator send targeted ads.” Targeted ads are good for advertisers because they allow marketers to reach specific consumers with the appropriate message.

What it does: BIAP’s work has included the June launch of a fantasy baseball application in four Time Warner markets that lets users track their team on-screen using a remote. Back in February, BIAP was the secret sauce behind NBC’s enhanced Olympics content that included the ability to track Team USA’s performance on screen. Last year, BIAP worked with Time Warner’s Austin, Texas, system to let eBay users submit bids and track their purchases on their TV.

In the mix: BIAP’s competitors include Navic, Open TV, Ensequence and Tandberg Television. The competition will likely heat up as cable companies adopt interactive TV standards that enable television networks to develop interactive features that run across different cable systems.

Back story: In 1991 Mr. Peters started Source Media, an early-style interactive TV firm that was bought by Liberate in 1998. He retired, but in 2001 became intrigued with BIAP’s software, developed by scientists from NASA. He joined BIAP then as CEO.

The money guys: BIAP got off the ground in 1998 with funding by Safeguard Churchill Partners. BIAP just completed its fifth round of funding for $20 million, led by Sevin Rosen Funds. That brought its total venture take in eight years to about $45 million. The company should turn profitable sometime in 2007, Mr. Peters said.

Pros: BIAP is aiming for the same giant opportunity that Google unearthed with targeted Internet ads. “The Googles of the world have opened the idea [of targeted ads] and TVs haven’t even started yet with targeted ads,” Mr. Peters said. “Being able to do that is a very large opportunity in satellite and cable.”

Cons: The challenge interactive TV vendors face is making their products work on a wide scale. “Every cable system in every city is different. In Austin, Texas, there are [more than 20] versions of a digital set-top box,” he said.

How do you see people watching TV in two to three years? “TV is just another monitor, and you do different things on different monitors. In the next couple years I see being able to do Google on TV, something like Google.”

Which current media entity is most threatened? “We’re an enhancement. What this will do is make commercials more appealing to you. The definition of advertising is to stimulate and create a response. For $70 billion all they can do it stimulate. We bring in the response part.”

Who knew? Mr. Peters was born in Illinois and raised in Colorado. He received a bachelor’s degree at Eastern Illinois University and earned an MBA from the University of Denver. He now lives in Plano, Texas, with his wife and three sons.