Vidora is a free video watching app for the iPad and other mobile devices. Introduced last Thursday on the Apple Store, it has continuously ranked among the most popular video/entertainment apps in the store since then.
Founded in 2012 by Caltech, Berkeley and Stanford grads Alex Holub, Abhik Majumdar and Philip West, the site delivers streaming movies directly from content providers to mobile devices. It employs machine learning techniques that automatically extract information on video content and viewership patterns to create simple personalized experiences for consumers, similar to the way Pandora personalizes content around songs. The same technology delivers advanced analytics and services to publishers in Vidora, including targeted advertising based on metadata, the promotion of content to targeted users, and metadata-themed analytics.
“Our content spans across a range of genres and types,” said Holub. “So if you are watching a movie about ancient times and you like it, Vidora analyses this and says, ‘Hey, you might want to watch Spartacus.’” Holub said producers are keen on the technology because the analytics allow them to see interests and tastes, which enables them to relate videos together based on metadata.
Unlike neighboring Silicon Valley startup Boomtrain, which uses Web-based technology to deliver streaming TV and movie content, San-Francisco-based Vidora focuses on next-generation mobile platforms starting with the iPad and iPhone.
Perhaps more compelling, Holub says Vidora will support Apple’s Airplay and the new Miracast standard. Both are emerging methods for automatically sharing content from a smartphone or tablet to a TV or other device, and users to interact with the content through their mobile devices.
Holub, whose academic background includes artificial intelligence and cybernetics work at the Max Planck Institute, says the concentration on mobile Airplay and Miracast-based platforms will allow Vidora to deliver a premium experience that is attractive to both viewers and content producers.
“When we started Vidora, we were intrigued by two emerging trends. The first was the rapidly growing viewership of content on the iPad, which doubled last year and continues to grow at a rapid pace. So we have worked closely with Apple to deliver an app that provides a premium viewing experience on the iPad and iPhone,” said Holub.
The second trend that caught Vidora’s attention was content sharing.
“Apple has done a really good job of integrating content sharing across the iPad, iPhone and Apple TV,” he added. “We were actually pretty blown away when we first saw that. It struck myself and my co-founders as a great opportunity to further engage the consumer by creating interactive experiences.”
These interactive experiences represent “an interesting evolution for Vidora,” said Holub.
The emergence of Miracast, which was developed by a consortium of TV display and smartphone technology companies, allows Android and other platform developers to deliver a level of cross-platform integration similar to what Apple has achieved with its devices.
“I think the concept of interactive, cross-platform experiences is a very interesting direction,” said Holub. “Whoever can cross into that area has a tremendous opportunity. If you can develop an IT technology or a product that can do that really well, it could be a powerful way for content owners to engage with consumers and a huge revenue opportunity.”
For now, thought, the emphasis is on using analytics to provide premium content, including promoted content related to the viewer’s interests.
“Promoted content that really is useful to publishers and content owners, and helpful or relevant to consumers, is a powerful capability,” said Holub. “It is driving significant download activity and making us No. 1 in the entertainment section of the Apple Store.”
Holub said Vidora currently has just over a dozen major publishers delivering content to its site, with “double that coming in the next couple of months.”
The content is domestic and international, said Holub, noting keen interest in the site from Japan.
Currently, the content ranges from original web series from Yahoo and others, to independent film contest winners and a full library of movie content from major producers.
“In the near future there is going to be content from networks and broadcasters, maybe not be the top networks but we are talking to them as well,” said Holub, adding that “to date the conversations have been more around archival stuff, but conversations are constantly evolving.”
“When you provide the producers with an understanding of who their audience is, the resistance goes away,” said Holub, adding that new content that blurs the traditional content channels will also have a disruptive effect.
“A few years ago all the content was coming from networks and cable companies,” said Holub. “More recently, the decreasing cost of producing content has had a massive blurring effect, and so companies like Yahoo are now creating premium content solely over the web. That is going to be a pretty interesting opportunity for Vidora to facilitate the discovery of content on the platform.”
Holub said a “lot of different parts of the ecosystem are now under change” and adjustments will need to be made by many current players in the video/entertainment markets. Vidora, he said, intends to be in the center of the storm.
“We see ourselves as a consumer platform working equally with publishers,” said Holub. “We have it in our DNA to work with publishers directly.”
Still, Holub said the interaction with publishers will not involve discussions around licensing.
“We aren’t in the rights game,” said Holub. “Our platform is there for publishers to distribute their content. We don’t deal with licensing, We have services, such as analytics and content promotion, a suite of services that we enable for publishers.”
Holub would not comment on Vidora’s funding sources, but added that the company is “creating a funding announcement” that is expected to be released “probably in time it to the next major release, maybe later this month, maybe next week or in the next several weeks.”