Maven Gives a Different Look to Internet Video

New tools from a startup company Maven Networks let companies package and distribute rich presentations and marketing videos online. Technology can also provide higher-quality video, the company said.

A startup company launching this week wants to change the way enterprises and Web users view online video. By sending files in the background instead of streaming in real time, Maven Networks said its customers can provide a higher-quality experience for rich video content.

Maven Networks Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., released its Maven Media System, a set of software that allows enterprises to provide full-screen, television-quality video to viewers with broadband connections. The system, one of the first packaged solutions of its kind, is targeted to enterprise marketing organizations seeking to capitalize on the growing number of households connected to the Net with broadband, said Maven Networks CEO Hilmi Ozguc.

"Were at a tipping point. Thirty million households have broadband," he said. "It was apparent that there was pent up demand on the part of users that want a richer experience with broadband connections as well as companies needing to get better results from their online e-marketing systems."

Mavens selling point is the quality of the video itself, which Ozguc said is "DVD quality" and mimics what consumers expect when watching TV. But as important, the system also allows companies to build in interactive features such as chat, e-commerce and personalization to turn online video into an effective marketing and sales tool, he said.

Traditionally, enterprises—particularly media and entertainment companies— wanting to offer higher-quality and interactive video presentations from their Web sites have had to build it themselves or work with high-end development consultants, Ozguc said. Maven Networks software lets online marketing groups build the projects themselves.

The Maven Media System includes server software to allow for the distribution of video content. It provides capabilities common to competing media servers such as digital rights management, routing, failover and redundancy. The system features production and content management software as well as templates that can help enterprises create video and build in interactive features. The package also comes with a metrics engine that gathers usage statistics for use with analytics and database software.

On the viewer side, users must download a small client the first time they connect to video content built with the Maven Media System. Video in the Maven Networks system is not streamed but is based on scheduled delivery. So when a user clicks on a link, the video downloads in the background onto the viewers hard drive. That allows for the higher quality, full-screen video, Ozguc said.

Maven pointed out that its system is not a competitor or replacement for the popular streaming media servers and players: Microsofts Windows Media Player, RealNetworks RealOne Player and Apple Computer Inc.s QuickTime. Both the Maven server software and the client sit on top of the top media servers and players, Ozguc said. Enterprises deploying the system decide which of the three players to support.

Along with launching the company and software, Maven Networks also announced that Virgin Records America Inc., National Geographic Channel are using the technology for online video applications.

Virgin Records decided to pilot Maven Networks approach to promote artist Ben Harper and his release of the single "Diamonds on the Inside." The company wanted to provide viewers with a full-length video of the song after it ran during the premiere of the new television show. However, the company decided that a typical small-screen Web clip wouldnt cut it, said Syd Schwartz, vice president of new media at Virgin, in New York.

"As broadband becomes more widespread, the days of Internet video running in two-inch by three-inch windows is an unfulfilling experience," Schwartz said.

Their goal was more than just improving video quality. Virgin wanted to attract new fans, so officials decided to try a viral marketing approach. Viewers of the video could fill our an interactive form and refer five of their friends, and thereby receive a previously unreleased Ben Harper song, Schwartz said. Virgin has made a total of 21 of the unreleased live tracks available, encouraging one fan to refer 105 people to the site.

"This was a specific promotion and were very pleased with how it turned out," Schwartz said. "It really looks different that other Internet video and looks like TV."

The Maven Networks system is available for license or as a managed service. Typical pricing for the licensing with consulting begins at $50,000. Maven Networks was founded in April of 2002 and has about 25 employees.

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