Delve Networks Un-Pluggd; Startup Relaunched as Video Search Provider, To Compete With Cambridge Companies
Seattle-based audio and video search company Pluggd rebranded itself yesterday as Delve Networks and launched a video hosting and search technology that seems designed to compete directly with services from Cambridge, MA-based EveryZing. The development’s bicoastal impact was particularly interesting to us, given Xconomy’s impending expansion to Seattle (for more on that, watch this space over the weekend).
According to the Delve website, which went live Tuesday, the company will provide all of the software and hosting services that owners of video content need to set up their own Internet video channels, including a video library manager, a consumer video player based on Adobe’s Flex technology, and a tool for tracking viewership. That combination spurred TechCrunch writer Mark Hendrickson to describe Delve as a “full-blown Brightcove competitor,” referring to the Cambridge, MA-based video hosting company.
But video hosting, by itself, is a dime-a-dozen technology these days—the Boston area alone is home to several companies offering such platforms, including Brightcove, Maven, and Extend Media. What’s distinctive about Delve’s system is its so-called “Semantic Video Web” technology, which creates text transcripts from a digital video’s audio track. By running a search against this transcript, Delve’s software can find the moments in a video when the user’s search term is mentioned. It then directs the user to these locations in a video by transforming the time bar under the video into a “heat map” identifying the segments most relevant to the search term.
The company also describes this technology as “Search Inside”—an echo of Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” feature, which may not be accidental, given that CEO Alex Castro and several other Pluggd/Delve execs worked together in Amazon’s Web Services division. And helping Internet users search inside audio and video is a problem that lots of engineers have spent lots of time thinking about. (Indeed, Pluggd got its start in 2006 as a podcast search engine, and until last summer focused on audio files.) The theory is that if people have better insight into what online videos are about, they’ll watch more of them, and/or spend more time with each one—and both behaviors drive up page views and ad revenues.
All of which indicates that Delve should be viewed as a competitor for EveryZing rather than Brightcove or Maven. EveryZing’s entire business is built around using speech-to-text software to make online video content more visible to search engines, thereby creating more “side doors” into media websites with loads of video content, such as Boston.com. “Text is the currency of the Web, and being able to plug all of this content into the broader search economy is the problem to solve with video,” says Tom Wilde, EveryZing’s CEO.
But Wilde isn’t too worried about the new competition. For one thing, he wonders how many companies with large video archives that they need to make searchable will also be in need of video hosting services. (Judging from Delve’s website, the company doesn’t offer one without the other.) “A lot of major media companies have already built their own” video content management systems, Wilde says. “It’s not a particularly difficult problem to solve, from a technology standpoint. That’s why you don’t find Brightcove or Maven serving the ‘Tier One’ media companies.”
EveryZing’s speech-to-text system, by contrast, is a Web-based service that runs alongside a client’s existing Web publishing systems. “We made a very conscious decision that we would ensure that our customers could leverage their existing investments in related technologies, whether it’s content management or ad serving or analytics,” says Wilde. “We just created a layer on top of that to drive discovery, consumption, and ad targeting.”
I wasn’t able to reach anyone at Delve for comment, as it appears that the entire company is in West Hollywood, CA, for AlwaysOn’s OnHollywood conference. But according to TechCrunch’s coverage, work on the Delve platform began in August of last year after Pluggd closed a Series A funding round involving Band of Angels, DFJ Frontier, Intel Capital, and Labrador Ventures. (There are conflicting reports about the size of that round: TechCrunch says it was $8 million, while John Cook’s Venture Blog at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says it was $5.8 million. But everyone agrees that Intel Capital provided a $1.65 million seed investment in December 2006.)
The company is currently putting the finishing touches on its video management platform and player software, and has signed up a handful of beta customers including Bikini.com, CNET, Intel, Jaudible, Small Screen Network, and Wallstrip. Castro told Hendrickson that a free trial version of Delve’s software will be available within a few weeks, with pricing information also on the way soon.
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