Wednesday, July 21, 2010, 7:52 AM ET|Posted by Will RichmondA few months ago the assets of Veoh, the well-funded, but ultimately unsuccessful online video aggregator, were sold to a tiny company named Qlipso, which is backed by Jerusalem Venture Partners. It was a highly unconventional deal and the rationale Qlipso provided at the time seemed vague to me. However, Qlipso has now done its initial integration with Veoh and after seeing it and talking with Qlipso CEO Jon Goldman last week, I have a better sense of what's going on and what's ahead.
When you visit Veoh.com now and select any video to watch, you'll see an invitation above the video window to "Share live with friends." Clicking that link invokes the Qlipso social platform, in which the video plays. When you sign in to Qlipso you're then able to create your own avatar or insert webcam video of yourself, either of which is displayed alongside others in the room. You're also able to communicate with others through text and audio chat.
Social viewing rooms aren't new - 3 years ago I wrote about Paltalk offering them and more recently CBS and others have introduced them as well. However, Jon's point of view is that while they've existed, they've always been more of a feature, and haven't been exploited as a new monetization opportunity. Jon sees the social viewing that Qlipso enables as a parallel to the environments created in massively multiplayer online games. In short, Qlipso wants to create shared virtual environments that wrap around video viewing and follow the same kinds of revenue generating rules these online games do.
If you're not a gamer (and though I'm not myself, I am a casual industry observer), one of the key elements in many online games is the "virtual economy" in which virtual products are bought and sold. This may seem quirky to some, but it is a very real and very popular activity. In many games, real money is tied to virtual money, in turn creating a lot of real value. Jon wants to emulate this model with Qlipso/Veoh and sees a range of additional "virtual" opportunities such as premium "party rooms," which could be similar to the party mode that Netflix offers Xbox users. Jon also envisions things like subscriptions to special programming events and of course sales of virtual goods. Qlipso would take a fee on all the transactions.
Qlipso made the bet on Veoh primarily to obtain Veoh's still substantial audience and content library (as a sidenote, how Qlipso bought Veoh's assets at auction is a story unto itself and an unexpected end to the first chapter of Veoh's life). Qlipso is introducing a very new approach to online video viewing that could resonate with the millions of users accustomed to multiplayer games. Or it could turn out that trying to pair the two activities - virtual worlds and online video - is just a kooky idea that doesn't really work. I'm not quite sure yet what to think, but it will be interesting to see how things unfold.
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