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Digital Dealmakers: Michael Sprague

Jun 24, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The player: Michael Sprague, president and chief operating officer for Wavexpress, which operates the TVTonic service.
The play: TVTonic is an online TV service that aggregates content from a number of Web sources and delivers them through its software, primarily to PCs with Microsoft Media Center technology. TVTonic operates as the video player that viewers use to watch programming from about 300 content producers currently, including Hollywood.com, Associated Press and Ziff Davis Media. “We are providing a portal out to video feeds from other sources,” he said. “It’s taking the content [viewers] select and putting it on the hard drive for playback.”
The pitch: TVTonic is banking on its Microsoft partnership. Media Center is now a feature included on all computers with the new Vista operating system from Microsoft. “Now [Media Center] is an application you can launch straight from the desktop,” Mr. Sprague said. TVTonic is among a handful of entertainment properties incorporated into the Media Center, along with Comedy Central and Movielink.
In the mix: TVTonic currently delivers content via RSS feeds. Mr. Sprague said he’s talking to broadcast and cable networks to strike partnerships that would include promotion on the TVTonic service as well as a share of advertising revenue.
Pros: As online video continues to flourish, consumers will migrate to easy services that manage and deliver the content they want.
Cons: Competition is stiff and Web-TV rival Joost already has a high profile. Also, success or failure hinges on Microsoft’s Media Center. “To some extent, we have hitched ourselves to Media Center and have spent a lot of effort developing something that works on Media Center,” Mr. Sprague said.
The backstory: Wavexpress was founded in 1999 as a technology firm that distributed large files. The company has shifted its focus to TVTonic in the last few years. Wavexpress is a division of Wave Systems.
The money guys: TVTonic makes money via advertising. It has a deal with ad network Broadband Enterprises, which sells ads in about 20 percent of the feeds coming into the service. TVTonic should be profitable some time next year, Mr. Sprague said. The company is owned by security software firm Wave Systems, which is publicly traded on NASDAQ.
Background: Mr. Sprague was born in New York and raised in Massachusetts. He studied philosophy and computer science at the University of Chicago. He also worked at consulting firm Enterprise Engineering. Mr. Sprague, 37, lives in Manhattan with his wife and two kids.
Who knew? Mr. Sprague loves to bake bread and makes rustic sourdough loaves every weekend.

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