This morning Zipidee, a company formed earlier this year, is announcing its acquisition of TotalVid from Landmark Communications. With the deal Zipidee is gunning to become the king of the long tail, enthusiast video, using a strictly paid model. Yesterday I spoke with Zipidee CEO Henry Wong, and TotalVid President Karl Quist about the deal and the opportunity going forward.
Zipidee's strategy is to create a digital marketplace for video, audio and ebooks. As Henry puts it, we're "eBay meets iTunes", enabling content providers to set the business rules around how their content can be accessed. Like TotalVid, Zipidee's intent is to open up the broadband distribution market to the many smaller, independent producers who have traditionally relied on inefficient and hard-to-access DVD distribution channels.
I am very familiar with TotalVid, having worked as a part-time biz dev consultant for them for a while, helping pull together a number of distribution deals. TotalVid started up in the relatively early days of broadband video, almost 4 years ago. Karl and his team did a fabulous job gaining access to specialty video in tons of categories such as action sports, martial arts, instruction, etc, eventually aggregating over 500 different content providers providing over 5,500 different titles. This library is very complimentary to Zipidee, which itself has done hundreds of content deals aggregating a library of over 5,000 titles. As Henry explained it, there is virtually zero duplication.
Henry resolutely believes that the paid approach for accessing this type of longer-form, specialty content is preferable to ad-supported. In general I agree with him - this kind of stuff isn't just random low-quality clips and consumers should expect that it won't come free.
However, as many VideoNuze readers know, I believe there are real challenges succeeding with the paid model right now. Chief among them is that the Internet is awash with free video, continuously raising the bar for how to get users to crack open their wallets and pay for anything, no matter how useful or sought after it might be. So this leads to a real marketing and customer acquisition challenge. Meanwhile DVD is a robust format and few people are yet familiar or comfortable with how a paid download works (e.g. is it portable? how does it get moved to other machines, can it be watched on TV?) So there's a big customer education challenge.
Nonetheless, I'm rooting for Zipidee. If they can surmount these and other challenges, they'll have created a hugely valuable digital distribution franchise.