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Summary:

Hulu. Fancast. Sling.com. Joost. Veoh. These are all video portals trying to be the one-stop online shop for you to enjoy every bit of TV network content. Despite this crowded field of heavy hitters, First on Mars is throwing its hat into the premium content ring […]

Hulu. Fancast. Sling.com. Joost. Veoh. These are all video portals trying to be the one-stop online shop for you to enjoy every bit of TV network content. Despite this crowded field of heavy hitters, First on Mars is throwing its hat into the premium content ring today to try and become — you guessed it, the one-stop online shop for all your TV watching needs.

first_on_mars

Believing that establishing official relationships with studios and networks would be too laborious and costly (there is some logic to that), First on Mars is a lot like OpenHulu (and Prime Time Rewind, Modern Feed, Mefeedia…noticing a trend?) in that it just embeds video players or web pages from other content sites like Hulu or Comedy Central.

First on Mars founder and CEO Tuhin Roy is aware of the competition, but believes his company’s “Web 2.0″ approach to serving up video content is its competitive advantage. First on Mars has a graphical interface and allows you to discover content by selecting the “mood” you’re in, such as hilarious, bleak, sexy, etc. (Though typically when I watch online video I’m not in a “bleak” mood.)

But what struck me as I perused First on Mars is its almost polar opposite approach to design than that of Hulu. At NewTeeVee Live, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar spoke on how clean the Hulu interface was, and how they agonized over every pixel. Instead of lists, First on Mars’ navigation is driven by a collection of tiles that clutter up your screen and take too long to load as you move through them.

Additionally, some content is viewable through a direct embed, but other shows nest the source’s entire web page within the Flash window. This page-within-a-page presentation for something like The Colbert Report makes the site feel cramped and amateurish.

Since First on Mars uses embeds from other sites, it can’t monetize the video directly. So the company plans to make money selling ads around the content. First on Mars believes that since it doesn’t have to pay to license the content in the first place, it can get higher margins on those ads.

First on Mars was formed back in March of this year and launched a public beta in September. The San Francisco-based company has twelve full-time employees, raised an angel round earlier this year and another undisclosed round of financing in September (right before the economy went to pot).

  1. Stacey Higginbotham Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Chris, based on your description of this company, about a dozen unfortunate people will be out of work soon. Sad.

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  2. Hi Chris,

    One correction – Mefeedia actually has an official deal with Hulu and are using the partner API and embeds. We also just got approval and officially running Comedy Central’s Colbert Report and Daily Show:

    http://www.mefeedia.com/tv

    Additionally, we also have ABC and others as partners (see our partners page link in footer), with direct relationships and partner feeds:

    Of course, this is only part of Mefeedia – we still have thousands of videoblogs and other sites, including anything you want to personally aggregate via importing your personal subscriptions from YouTube, iTunes, Blip, etc…

    Regards,
    – Frank
    CEO, Mefeedia

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  3. Hey there Chris. Thanks for the review.

    Unfortunately, one important detail we discussed in the interview that didn’t make it into your article is that First on Mars is already generating user engagement that is far superior to the competitors you mentioned in the article.

    In our beta period, we averaged about 14 page views per visit and 14 minutes per visit.

    According to Compete (November numbers), Fancast is averaging about 6 pages and 7 minutes per visit, Hulu is averaging about 6 pages and 10 minutes, Joost is averaging 7 pages and 8 minutes and Sling is averaging 6 pages and 6 minutes. So, our model is generating a 40% improvement over the best of the competitor’s engagement stats (Hulu) and a 100% improvement over some of the others.

    While there are many things I like about all of the competitor sites (particularly Sling), these numbers are worth noting because they mean that across 10,000+ actual First on Mars beta users, we were seeing solid evidence that our approach is driving value for Internet TV viewers.

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  4. And another interesting take on our launch from the LA times:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2008/12/first-on-mars.html

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  5. Here’s my take – if this is a superset of programming from multiple portals, and discovery is as easy if not easier than any single one of them, then I can see this working. Hulu is great, no question, but I think their discovery leaves something to be desired, and who pays atttention ultimately to what shows run on what networks anymore? Maybe some do, but I don’t really keep track.

    The only knock I have on FOM is that I could not figure out how to search.

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  6. [...] In recent days I’ve chatted with newly launched startups Clipgarden, a portal for paid training videos; Gawkk, a video feed reader; and Hitviews, a studio that matches brands and web stars. Meanwhile, this week my colleague Chris Albrecht profiled the launches of ZDONK, an online film financing community, and First on Mars, a premium video content aggregator. [...]

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