Firms Stake Claims in Web Video Search

Nov 13, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Later this year technology start-up CastTV plans to introduce a video search engine that has the potential to do what others before it have failed to do: actually find video online.

That would be a big step forward in the burgeoning business. Video search is a very tough nut to crack, but it’s also a crucial one given the explosion of video content on the Web over the past year. Companies such as Truveo, which is part of AOL, and Blinkx are already staking out a claim in the wide-open field of video search. Newcomers like ClipBlast and PureVideo are also aiming to carve out a niche.

Many of the video search aspirants are smaller players, and that’s partly because the big guns-Google and Yahoo-that have built their business on text searches have not yet found the secret sauce for video search. The field is open for all comers, and no one has yet commanded dominance the way Google has in traditional text search.

The opportunity is huge. Audience measurement firm comScore reported recently that more than 106.5 million people, or about 60 percent of all U.S. Internet users, streamed or downloaded video during July, the first month the firm measured video streaming. In total, nearly 7.2 billion videos were streamed or downloaded by U.S. Internet users for an average of 67 streams per streamer, Comscore said.

Sifting Through the Pile

As the number of streams continues to mushroom, Web users will seek out easier ways to sift through the video. That’s where this current crop of video search engines want to stake their claim.

CastTV, the newest entrant, hasn’t launched yet. “There is a lot of opportunity in the space because it’s a hard problem and one that’s not being solved,” said Alex Vikati, co-founder of the service. “The large players in search have traditional search engines optimized for the regular Web, and they aren’t optimized for what we call the Media Web.” To be effective, a video search service must understand the more complicated code behind video and embedded video players.

Ms. Vikati said the CastTV Web crawler is designed to search the entire Web specifically for video. In a demonstration of the service for TelevisionWeek, CastTV was able to find specific pieces of video on their originating sites, such as a clip for NBC show “America’s Got Talent” on NBC.com and the “I Am a Tree” episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” on both ABC.com and iTunes. When searched for using other search engines, the items weren’t found, or the top results included unauthorized versions posted on YouTube.

“Video search is a completely different technology,” Ms. Vikati said.

Video search is an emerging technology, said Brian Kalinowski, chief operating officer for Web destination Lycos, which partnered with search engine Blinkx in late August to incorporate Blinkx’s video search technology into the Lycos service to search through the more than 5 million hours of searchable video on Lycos. Lycos attracts about 26 million visitors per month. “If you look at what is happening in the industry, clearly the proliferation of text content over video content has been standard. The next logical paradigm on the Web is video. How do you find that video content?” Mr. Kalinowski asked.

New Technology

Lycos will rely on Blinkx as it adds new video features in the coming weeks, such as Lycos Cinema, a “watch and chat” video-based broadband experience that lets users select videos to watch and then invite friends to chat with them in real time.

Mr. Kalinoswki said the reason no one has cracked the proverbial code yet is because video search is still in its infancy. “We are going to see a major revolution over the next two years in the systems and the technology that are used for basically dissecting the DNA of video-based content and presenting it in a logical, well thought-out manner,” he said. “What we are seeing now will dramatically evolve.”

Then there’s ClipBlast, which just emerged from beta in September. ClipBlast operates as both a video search engine and a destination site to sift through the reams of Internet video at any given moment. It includes a real-time list of video clips that are being released online.

The service also lets site owners include a downloadable ClipBlast search box on their sites so their visitors can search for Web video.

Another new entrant is PureVideo Networks, the parent company of viral video site StupidVideos.com. PureVideo retooled its site in early October to become a video search engine and also a destination to find video by featuring charts and lists of the most popular videos on sites such as MySpace, ESPN, YouTube and Break.