The Shakeout Begins! Video Startups in Play

It didn’t take long after the credit crunch last fall for waves of layoffs to hit online video startups. But surely all those tweaks and cuts didn’t successfully revive every single company’s fate. And now, we’re seeing the ensuing wave of startups putting themselves up for sale (and we don’t mean in that “we’re always open to a great offer” kind of way).

ManiaTV has a week or two left in it, at most, according to laid-off employees. At least 15 more were let go this Tuesday as the company rushes to close a sale. This came after investors decided to pull out at the beginning of the month, and on the heels a previous round of layoffs in October as well as significant attrition.

60Frames, which also made significant layoffs last October, is another company whose name has come up as an active would-be acquisition target.

A spokesperson for 60Frames offered a wide-open official statement:

The company experienced a tremendous amount of success in 2008, and is excited about projects underway this year, several of which will be announced soon. 60Frames has, per its original business plan, begun conversations concerning its next round of financing, and is currently exploring a number of options and partnerships with both financial and strategic partners.

Another name that keeps dropping in our inbox (and around town) as a shutdown/sale target is HBO’s HBOlab/Runawaybox, the digital unit that’s long been run separately from premium TV network and makes show such as Man in the Box and Hooking Up. According to sources, some assets are close to being sold off, but not for very much. We’ve put in many, many calls but nobody will give us an official comment.

And these are just three examples. We heard from one prospective video site buyer that he’d seen some 20 slide decks in the last two weeks!

So who’s strong enough to weather this storm without being forced to sell? Especially considering the rapid encroachment of big media companies (and now even the cable cos!) fighting for web eyeballs. Considering the unavailability of VC money and the terrible market, there seem to be more healthy startups than you might think. We’re surprised on a daily basis at how much positivity people can wring out of the current climate (and perhaps more importantly, how cash many companies still have in the bank). If they can hold onto their investors’ goodwill, and keep chugging away at the bottom line, we may well still have an online video industry next year.

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