• Interview with Tom MacIsaac, New CEO, ExtendMedia

    This morning ExtendMedia is announcing that one of its board members, Tom MacIsaac has been named CEO. Tom is a long-time technology executive and venture capitalist. He and I got to know each other when he was running Lightningcast, one of the earliest broadband video advertising companies, which was sold to AOL in 2006. Tom went on to run strategy and M&A at AOL, where he led a $1B in acquisitions and more recently has been a venture partner at BlueRun Ventures and run Cove Street Partners, his own investment and advisory firm.

    Tom's addition is a big step forward for the company, which has established a strong, yet relatively low-key position in the market. In my view that's been for two reasons: first, because Extend has emphasized pay media models, whereas a lot of the attention has been on ad-supported ones, and second, because while Extend has had a very strong team, the CEO role itself has been vacant for some time. For better or worse, one of the lessons I've learned over the years is that a high-profile, well-known CEO, who spends a significant portion of his/her time on externally-oriented visibility-building activities is a key success factor for young companies. I'm not a fan of the "rock star" CEO model, but I do believe in the "CEO as #1 company salesman" approach. Without such a person in place, a young company's whole team has to work that much harder to succeed.

    Tom and I talked about his new role, ExtendMedia's opportunities and the broadband market in general. An edited transcript follows:

    VN: Congratulations on joining ExtendMedia. What attracted you to the role?

    TM: Extend is in an extremely exciting space as IP video changes the entire media and communications landscape. It has a great team with deep domain expertise, is very well-funded with great investors in Atlas Venture, Venrock and TVM Capital and has an enviable competitive position being the leading independent carrier-grade multi-screen video platform.

    VN: Describe ExtendMedia's key product and technology differentiators and who its primary competitors are.

    TM: We provide an enterprise class, multi-screen video platform that content owners and distributors use as a foundational asset in building video services. We manage video content across the lifecycle from ingest to monetization and across IPTV, web and mobile services in both ad-supported and pay media business models.

    Our primary competitor is thePlatform, a division of Comcast. We don't really run into the Flash-based web video publishing companies like Brightcove, Ooyala, PermissionTV, etc. because we are usually deeper in the our customers' infrastructure trying to solve more complex problems that span the set-top box, PC and/or mobile devices, using multiple business models.

    VN: ExtendMedia has always been strong with pay media business models, but has focused less on ad-supported ones. Given your background at Lightningcast, do you think that will change?

    TM: Extend has always supported both ad-based streaming business models as well as pay media, but you're certainly right that we have been particularly strong in pay media. That said, we have new additional capabilities to help our customers in their ad-supported streaming media businesses in our next release and later this year will have yet another set of interesting enhancements targeted on maximizing video CPMs for our customers. We aren't going to get into the ad serving business but we are going to extend the boundaries of our product in that direction so that we can help the ad monetization engines we partner with leverage everything at our customers' and our disposal to maximize CPMs. We have some specific ideas on how we can really add value here.

    VN: What kind of company is an ideal ExtendMedia customer?

    TM: A telco, cable MSO or mobile carrier that is building a multi-screen video platform or a large diversified media company that has built several stove-piped digital video services over the last few years and is now trying to pull everything together on a single infrastructure.

    VN: What areas of your background and experience do you think will be most valuable to the company?

    TM: I've been in the technology business for 20 years, as a lawyer to tech companies, as a venture capitalist, as a board member, as a founder/entrepreneur and as an executive in large technology companies. I've sold three companies that I've run to public companies and acquired five venture-backed companies as an executive at AOL. That's a pretty good array of perspectives to bring to the table.

    But my video advertising expertise in particular will definitely come into play at Extend. At Lightningcast we built the first advertising technology platform designed to monetize IP video and were at the table at the inception of some of the most successful video services out there - Comcast's Fancast and Hulu, for example. Despite all the activity and investment in the area, with possibly one or two exceptions, in the three years since I left Lightningcast no one's doing anything we didn't think of and do first.

    VN: What do you think your top 2-3 priorities will be?

    TM: We're on the right track, so it's all about execution.

    VN: What's your perspective on the broadband video market today? And what would you say about incumbent service providers' evolving role in delivering broadband video services?

    TM: I think the incumbent service providers are getting much smarter about IP video. They are leveraging their advantages much more effectively. When the web video phenomenon took off it was initially about user-generated content and giving the little guy content creator a direct-to-consumer path. The problem is that that hasn't paid off - the business model doesn't work yet - the dollars just aren't there.

    The trend today is back to professional content and that plays to service providers' strengths. Initially it was all about advertising, and now the trend is toward dual offerings of both ad-supported and pay media business models, which is also good for incumbents. Many service providers, like our customers AT&T and Bell Canada for example, have set-top box, web and mobile sand boxes to play with and if folks like Extend can help them deliver video across and between those platforms and help manage the environments and entitlements from a single platform that will provide real value to their consumers and will drive loyalty. Comcast's On-Demand Online and Time Warner's TV Anywhere initiatives are good examples of service providers figuring out how to leverage their strengths in ways that benefit them, their content partners and consumers.

    VN: You've been a venture capitalist, have raised venture financing and have successfully sold companies. What advice do you have for broadband video entrepreneurs given the state of the economy?

    TM: The space is clearly overbuilt in many segments. There will be a lot of fallout. Investors are gun-shy. So do your research and make sure you have something unique. That said, it is going to be one of the most interesting and lucrative areas in all of technology over the next decade. So if you've got something truly innovative - go for it.

    VN: Thanks Tom, and good luck.

    (note: ExtendMedia is a VideoNuze sponsor)