Building B became the latest startup to join the Internet video set-top box sweepstakes today with the Belmont, Calif.-based company’s announcement that it has developed a video god box capable of marrying traditional television with video-on-demand and Web video.
The company has raised a whopping $17.5 million from Morgenthaler Ventures, Omni Capital, Index Ventures and other private investors. It will need the money, for it is entering a crowded marketplace where everyone from Apple (AAPL) to set-top box makers such as Motorola (MOT) and Cisco Systems’ (CSCO) Scientific Atlanta to startups such as VUDU are jostling for pole position.
The service seamlessly integrates traditional television with on-demand premium content and Internet video — all delivered to the living room television without the need for a PC. ….. leverages the unique strengths of wireless broadcast technology.
In an interview with NewTeeVee, Building B co-founders Bruno Pati and Phil Wiser said that offering all types of video content in one service that’s delivered over the air using wireless broadband to a single box is something consumers will find appealing.
“The real opportunity, we believe, is in the living room, but unfortunately, you have a lot of new boxes in your living room for different things,” says chief executive officer and co-founder Pati. Fellow co-founder Wiser, formerly chief technology officer of Sony (SNE) and founder of Liquid Audio, says, “We are licensing content from cable content owners and other companies, and delivering it over a wireless network.”
Building B, however, is being unnecessarily tight-lipped about the technology it’s using for wireless content delivery. They said that the service combines best of Internet and wireless delivery, but didn’t offer any specifics. The executives were equally cryptic about how much the devices and the service will cost. A commercial launch is currently slated for sometime in the fall, when they plan to sell them through regular retail channels, but Pati and Wiser wouldn’t provide any information beyond that.
Such reticence makes me inherently skeptical of their claims, especially in light of Movie Beam, another wireless video content delivery service that burnt through millions of dollars and in the end had little to show for it. Similarly, Akimbo, which has been aggregating produced video content for some time, hasn’t exactly rocked the world, despite backing from AT&T (T) and Cisco Systems.
Wiser told me that Building B’s offering would be ideal for broadband service providers who want to offer video as part of their triple-play package, which, in theory anyway, does seem like a good market opportunity.
But by now many smaller players — including independent telecoms — are betting on low-cost set-top box offerings from the likes of Amino that already deliver some, if not all of Building B’s features. That is another challenge Building B will have to overcome.
That said, Sprint and Clearwire, two companies that are building WiMAX-based networks, could be ideal partners for the company since their networks will eventually have the bandwidth and geographic reach to deliver some of the promised services.
Building B Fact Sheet
|Cofounders||Bruno Pati, Phil Wiser|
|Investors||Morgenthaler Ventures, Omni Capital, Index Ventures and other private investors.|
|Business/industry||Set-top box, Online Video, Telecom|
|Competitors||Cisco Systems, Motorola, AT&T, Apple, VUDU, Amino, Verissimo, Boxee, others.|