Scott Ferber knows a thing about launching companies in a crowded field — he co-founded Advertising.com in 1998, DoubleClick was dominant and Bubble 1.0 was approaching its peak. A decade later, he’s co-founded TidalTV, yet another TV-on-the-Web startup
The Baltimore-based company does have money — it landed $15 million in an April funding round — and is furiously trying to sign content agreements with TV networks; the service is now in beta. But things haven’t gone smoothly: CEO Mollie Spilman, another former Ad.com exec, left abruptly this month after a few months at the helm. Ferber, who was chairman, said he wanted to run the company and the two “mutually agreed” that he would.
It’s been more than two years since Joost pioneered this space and started signing deals, but Ferber says deal-making is only getting tougher — he says content owners want guaranteed money with their customary ad splits. Nevertheless, TidalTV has a few deals done: CBS and Scripps networks like HGTV and Food Network are supplying shows for the service. We talked to Ferber about TidalTV’s prospects:
Silicon Alley Insider: How many online aggregators of TV will there be when the market shakes out?
Scott Ferber: Somewhere between three and six. If you go to Safeway, there are only three to six brands on the shelf. So there will be three to six at a minimum and possibly 10 to 20.
SAI: So what makes you think TidalTV can be one of those winners, given that it’s way behind Hulu, and Joost, and Veoh?
Ferber: Hulu is in a good place because it has good content and there is no confusion about what its core business is. Everyone else has issues. Joost was founded by people who didn’t know the ad business. Veoh is interesting, but it’s a mixture of premium and user-generated video. Also, it embeds content without paying people for it. I could go out and scrape the Hulu player and stick their content on our site, but that’s crazy, it’s just nuts.
SAI: Given the infrastructure costs and uncertain ad model, is this a good business to be in anyway?
Ferber: Its a capital-intensive business. You need basic technology, content relationships, and marketing dollars to get people. If you can get [people], the scale benefits are huge.
SAI: How much time do you think you have to sign deals, get customers and build scale?
Ferber: The next six months are important for us. If we get another slug of money and more content, then we’re a player. This is what we’ve done with limited assets. We’ve been open for six weeks and we just started marketing. We are getting thousands of new users a month with no advertising.
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