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.
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).