Azureus, creator of the popular P2P torrent client, inhabits a bursting-at-the-seams second-floor office in Palo Alto, just off the main drag, above Jing Jings and the gelato place. The 33-person company is working to capitalize on its 1.6 million average concurrent users by fashioning a legit IPTV destination, but there’s still a lot of tweaking to go, we learned from CEO Gilles BianRosa in an interview Tuesday.
Azureus, which we have to admit we stopped paying close attention to earlier this year after it changed the name of its commercial platform so many times, is somewhat upset about being left out of recent discussion about Joost, Babelgum, Veoh, and all its other well-funded and well-publicized competitors.
However, “Vuze” (we’re told that’s the final name), Azureus’ fast and well-designed platform for uploading, finding, and quickly downloading big video files, is making steady progress, with 5 million unique visitors of its own in June, up from 1 million when it launched in January. Hence, the update meeting in Palo Alto today. “But you don’t even have a player,” was my explanation for the relative lack of inclusion in internet TV hype, to which BianRosa replied “That’s not something that is hard to change.”
Nearly any feature or business model I asked him about, BianRosa replied it was in development or it had recently soft-launched on Vuze without a formal announcement. The company says it is about a month away from a major release with a bunch of new content partners, and it appears to be saving up the news.
What else is in the works? Along with a player (once Azureus figures out whose codec it likes) BianRosa promises streaming, flexible self-service business models, a partnership with YuMe Networks (which competitor BitTorrent also signed with) for contextual video ads, direct payment options for independent creators, collaborative filtering (which will eventually turn into personal recommendations), a web-based UI, and — of course — a Facebook app.
“What won’t you do?” was my last question. “I’m not interested in sub-par quality videos, short pirated videos, or a movie download service for the studios,” said BianRosa. “I’m not interested in recreating the TV world with its same limitations.”
The app is the core of the business, he said, with its capability to organize content and send it elsewhere. Still, he knows that’s a bet. “I don’t think users will have the appetite to download three IPTV apps,” he said. “That’s different from the web, where you’ll watch video on YouTube and then MySpace.”
BianRosa’s theory is that the key to successful video offering is tying together brand-name content, which is inevitably commoditizing but is still a big draw, and “vertical entertainment” that corresponds to a viewer’s specific interests. Using brand name to attract the audience, and then matching it with their specific interests is something that has worked in the past. Like Netflix and its very popular recommendation system.
A demo was held up by slow internet access. “You guys have slow internet? I asked. Well, we have about 15 people in the next room running Azureus,” explained BianRosa. Fancy that!