Wednesday, July 18, 2007, 4:21 PM ET
Paltalk, a company I've written about previously
, has released the beta version of a new service it has dubbed "Screening Rooms." Yesterday I got a demo of the service and a briefing with Joel Smernoff, President and COO. After you've registered at Paltalk, you navigate your way (not entirely straightforward, but this is by design for now to suppress demand during beta) to "Finding a Room", and then selecting a "Screening Room." Currently there's a choice of rooms with video from blip.tv, Heavy.com, IFL, Mania TV and Paltalk video.
Upon entering a room you're basically in a public IM session with a video window playing. The experience is part of what Paltalk calls "socialcasting", whereby users are able to interact while watching the video. So it sort of emulates watching TV together - collectively chuckling, groaning and critiquing what's on. Basically allowing online engagement to occur around broadband-delivered video.
Though it's still early, I think Paltalk's socialcasting theme is very aligned with a concept I've had in mind for some time --- that broadband video is more than just another pathway to bring video into the home, rather it's an entirely new medium to create new consumer experiences. Paltalk's sees it this way too. Their strategy for Screening Rooms is meant to experiment with lots of different types of content. So they're partnering with folks like blip and Heavy, creating their own live events with comedians such as Ray Ellin and possibly developing new shows in hot categories such as travel, cooking, martial arts, etc. Then of course there are the UGC opportunities - uploading your own home movies and inviting friends into a private room for you to narrate.
According to Joel, the secret sauce here is really around scalability --- being able to support thousands of participants per room with thousands of rooms running. With 4M active users, Paltalk should have the chops to handle this, but they're taking a go-slow approach for now to make sure there are no big surprises.