Maven Debuts Video/Data Platform

Of all the questions facing an entrepreneur, none is the more important that this: Does my product or service fill a need?

Hilmi Ozguc, co-founder of Maven Networks, believes the answer is “yes,” and with today’s launch he’ll soon know for sure.

Two years ago, the Lotus vet sought a way to help companies take advantage of the march toward broadband. Since then, Maven’s team has designed a software platform and toolkit at the crossroads of video and the Web.

“We wanted to make customer-facing applications that use full-screen DVD-quality video blended with interactivity to personalize commerce,” Ozguc told internetnews.com.

Maven Media System can be used in-house or delivered through the Cambridge, Mass., company’s data center — an option that could appeal to smaller companies.

It includes tools to manage and measure the success of online presentations and campaigns, thanks in large part to Maven co-founder Bill Wittenberg, an early hire at the CRM specialist Art Technology Group.

Using video in online promotions isn’t new, Ozguc acknowledged, but streaming technology can result in “small, jaggy” images. Maven uses a technique called “scheduled delivery,” which caches content to a users hard drive before it’s played, eliminating transport hiccups.

Boyd Peterson, vice president of consumer media and entertainment research at Yankee Group, said Maven’s video quality was excellent.

“Maven’s point of view is that video should be centerpiece,” Peterson told internetnews.com.

Caching could have a downside, because it uses memory. For consumers with the new PCs and operating systems, this shouldn’t be a problem, but owners of older machines should check before downloading the software, Peterson advised.

Media companies have been receptive. Maven has already inked Virgin Records and 20th Century Fox.

Virgin is releasing a Ben Harper music video on Maven’s platform. Viewers who forward it to five friends, are rewarded as the application unlocks a previously unreleased song. Real-time concert information and merchandise deals can also be added.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox will use the software to promote the upcoming Russell Crowe swashbuckling epic, “Master and Commander,” which hits theaters in November.

But Ozguc sees potential in the automotive, travel and hospitality, electronics sectors too, and hinted that customer wins outside the media realm are coming.

In addition, Ozguc said there’s interest from large ad agencies, which could use the software to create new campaigns for existing and potential clients. The metrics tools are also seen as imprortant in convincing Madison Avenue to act as a middleman.

Ozguc said the closest thing to Maven’s product is Disney’s ESPN In-Motion, internally grown technology that delivers video to their the sports network’s Web sites.

Yankee’s Peterson agrees that ESPN’s service is similar. But it is in-house and not licensed outside the company. BMW’s film series a few years back is also somewhat analogous.

On the customer side, Peterson noted that Maven’s product could be seen as competition to the media players of Real Networks and other, though probably not in the short-term.

“What’s encouraging about Maven and what will be interesting to watch is that there are a few brands out there with money and viewership to support themselves, beyond that, going to a third-party makes a lot of sense,” Peterson said.

So with indications that there is a market for Maven’s software, Ozguc & Co. will turn to the second most important question: How do we take full advantage of it?

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