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Digital Dealmakers: Steve Johnson

Jun 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The player: Steve Johnson, CEO and founder, ChoiceStream
The play: ChoiceStream software helps online video and traditional television providers offer more personalized viewing recommendations for consumers. ChoiceStream works with Blockbuster, DirecTV, AOL and Yahoo to help them deliver customized video suggestions for viewers. “We are going after the market for helping consumers find things that are important and relevant to them, and that is growing fast in the media market,” Mr. Johnson said. “The demand for video is explosively growing, and as the amount of videos increase, con sumers need to find more ways to find videos.”
The pitch: This week the company plans to release a new version of its product that includes added features, such as the ability to show consumers the specific connections between different videos recommended to them, Mr. Johnson said.
The new version will also help consumers “roam” and discover new videos. “It’s to help them find things that aren’t front and center but that they might like,” he said.
In the mix: ChoiceStream works with DirecTV to power its personalized TV planner online and expects to launch a Web- based TV recommendation engine this summer with Comcast. The company also works with AOL’s TV listings and Blockbuster.com.
Backstory: Mr. Johnson founded the company in 2000 and self-funded it with $15 million from his own venture fund, Sage Hill. ChoiceStream currently counts about 100 employees.
The money guys: ChoiceStream raised $7.5 million in 2004, $13 million in 2005 and recently closed a deal for $27 million. Venture partners include General Catalyst Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures. Mr. Johnson expects to become profitable sometime next year.
Pros: “There is more and more video content available in more and more places all the time, either on the phone, online or on TV,” Mr. Johnson said.
Cons: The biggest challenge, he said, is evaluating how far and wide to search for video and still provide quality results.
Background: Mr. Johnson, 48, was born and raised in Los Angeles. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree from Harvard. He also continued graduate studies at Harvard in economics and philosophy. He founded the Johnson-Grace Co., which provided compression technology and was sold to AOL in 1996. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., with his wife and three children.

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